3 free agent running backs Patriots should take a peek at
By Jack Long
It is far from the biggest need for the Patriots offense, but there are some intriguing free agent names at the running back position.
The New England Patriots are heading into what seems to be their most important offseason in decades. After having to watch Tom Brady win the Lombardi with a new organization, it isn’t surprising that Bill Belichick is preparing for an ‘aggressive offseason‘.
On the offensive side of the ball, the quarterback, wide receiver and tight end positions are undoubtedly the focal points for the Patriots offseason.
The draft offers some generational TE prospects that could be available at New England’s No.15 slot. This year’s free agent WR class is stacked. The Patriots also seem to be involved in trade talks for some of the veteran QBs potentially available.
What about the running back position, though? The position’s depth could certainly be thinned this offseason with both James White and Rex Burkhead hitting UFA status this spring. Both backs seem like candidates to depart the Patriots organization for larger deals that Bill Belichick may not be willing to dish out to veterans that are debatably exiting their primes, especially Burkhead.
Damien Harris had a breakout year for New England this past season and may have made what seemed like a tough decision on retaining Sony Michel a bit easier. Undrafted JJ Taylor also injected some energy into the Patriots’ backfield and earned the right to have a larger role in 2021.
If White and Burkhead truly exit the fold, the Patriots will be without a receiving back that can also help in pass protection. Harris, Michel and Taylor have all been used in the passing game, but none have showed great promise in the department. Those three backs are great in the ground and pound game, but New England could be in the market for a dynamic back that can be used for every down situations while being involved in the passing game.
Let’s take a look at a few names that could become signature backs for the Patriots.
3. Le’Veon Bell, 29
The Patriots could take a flyer on the veteran to see if he has anything left in the tank.
Le’Veon Bell has taken what can only be called a fall from grace since leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As much as Bill Belichick doesn’t like to pay players he considers to be out of their prime, he also loves to take advantage of cheap reclamation projects. At this point in his career it would be shocking to see Bell get a contract of much more than a year or two at or near the minimum.
The Patriots could see that as a decent gamble for a guy that had near 500 receiving yards only two seasons ago. As forgotten as Bell has been since his move to the Jets (where have we heard that before?), he’s not too far removed from his past glory.
In essence, this is a very 2004-05 Patriots move.