The New England Patriots confused countless analysts and fans by drafting two more running backs this year.
With Damien Harris coming off a career year, Rhamondre Stevenson looking to build off a promising rookie year, and James White returning on a two-year deal, it seemed redundant to add two rookies to an already crowded backfield.
Some would argue it was a poor use of resources considering the Patriots lack depth in the secondary and on their offensive line.
As always, it’d be foolish to doubt Bill Belichick, who always seems to be a step (usually two) ahead of the competition. With that in mind, was the decision to draft Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris on Day 3 made as a means to prepare for the future?
In his latest mailbag for NESN, writer Zack Cox floated the possibility of the Patriots trading Damien Harris before the regular season.
Could the Patriots trade Damien Harris this summer?
Here’s what Cox said in response to a Patriots fan who’s curious about the future of New England’s running back room.
"“Lead back Damien Harris is entering a contract year, and the Patriots seemed to be prepping for his eventual departure by drafting Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. If both rookies impress this summer, New England could even consider trading Harris, who might command more on the open market next spring than they’d be willing to pay.”"
Cox brings up a great point about Harris’ contract, which has surprisingly flown under the radar this offseason. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, there’s been no evidence to suggest Harris and the Pats are entrenched in negotiations for a long-term contract. We can’t even say if either side has initiated talks.
Given Belichicks’ track record in terms of not paying running backs, Strong and Harris’ performance during training camp could end up determining the elder Harris’ short-term future in Foxborough.
If the team is confident they can fill in behind Stevenson, wouldn’t it make sense to cash in on Harris before he hits free agency next offseason?
Coming off a career year in which he finished 10th in the NFL with 929 rushing yards, second with 15 rushing touchdowns and fifth in yards per attempt among backs who logged 200 carries, Harris might’ve played himself out of the Patriots’ price range.
Of course, Mac Jones is another variable to consider. With so many moving parts on the offensive line, should the Pats risk offloading their most important offensive piece behind the second-year QB just to get a solid return on investment?
It certainly makes for an interesting conversation.
At the end of the day, though, Harris is too important to what New England does offensively for the front office to even consider trading him. We need to see more from Stevenson (is he ready to assume a lead role?) and both Strong Jr. and Harris before we even entertain the idea of trading the budding 25-year-old.