It is finally week one of preseason this week, and the Patriots are preparing for their only home game against the Houston Texans.
Thursday night will be the first look at the 2023 Patriots. But, there's one player who won't be on the field that should be and should be on the team in general.
Ezekiel Elliott is still on the free agency market when he shouldn't be. The Patriots hosted Elliott for a visit on July 29th and the visit unsurprisingly resulted in Elliott leaving the building without a contract. This was a mistake; if Bill Belichick does not bring Elliott to New England, he will regret it.
Why would Belichick regret this?
There is a need for another running back behind Rhamondre Stevenson. Yes, Stevenson is projected to be one of the better running backs in the league this year, but after that, it's a weak depth chart. Having Elliott being behind Stevenson elevates that.
But what does the depth chart look like currently?
After Stevenson it's Ty Montgomery (currently injured), Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris (second-year players) and then J.J. Taylor who has been on and off the roster and has spent time on the practice squad. In short, it's injuries and inexperience after Rhamondre Stevenson which is unsuitable for a team with a young quarterback entering a critical year three.
Ezekiel Elliott is a veteran running back that the Patriots need. Last year in Dallas, Elliott rushed for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games. It was just the third time in his career he did not rush for 1000 yards. On top of that, Elliott can also be the pass-catching back that always succeeds in a New England offense.
Most importantly, Elliott has experience in the NFL and is healthy. He provides a veteran presence that is needed in the running back room. Plus, the Patriots' offense could have a two-headed monster at the running back position, just like how the Cleveland Browns have had Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb until this season.
It made no sense for Bill Belichick to let Ezekiel Elliott walk without a contract. His most recent regret will be if Elliott does not sign in New England. If something happens to Rhamondre Stevenson where he can't play for a game or two and Ty Montgomery is still dealing with injuries, the backfield is in trouble.
Belichick can make the offense better by bringing in Elliott, but for some reason, Elliott now has the most recent label as the one who got away... for now.