Generally, free agency has cooled off at this time of the year, and there aren't many roster changes around the league. After the draft, rosters are set and ready to go for OTAs and training camp, even with some quality talent left waiting for a team to call and sign them.
That appears to be the case with a former top running back in the league, as little has been said regarding team's interest in signing him since his release in March.
The longtime Dallas Cowboys' lead rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, remains a free agent, and according to one NFL analyst, the Patriots are among the few teams that seem like the best fit for him moving forward.
Matt Johnson of Sportsnaut suggested the running back sign with New England in one of his most recent articles, saying the Patriots could use some added depth to the backfield even with their offseason addition of James Robinson.
"Bill Belichick loves using multiple running backs, his history speaks for itself. While Rhamondre Stevenson is poised to be the focal point of the New England Patriots' rushing attack next season, everyone should know by now that others will be involved. While New England signed James Robinson, he hasn’t looked the same since returning from a torn achilles. Elliott could be another role player in the Patriots’ offense, giving Belichick what he wants and keeping Stevenson fresh."
At first glance, the idea of Bill Belichick signing another running back seems far-fetched, considering the number of players the team currently rosters; Kevin Harris, Ty Montgomery, James Robinson, Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong Jr., and J.J. Taylor.
Harris and Strong are entering just their second season in 2023. Despite their limited usage throughout last season, both showed great skill and promise when given the opportunity while also providing versatility at the position.
Then there's the return of Montgomery after suffering a season-ending injury in the first month of the 2022 season. Because he can play similarly to Stevenson as a pass-catching back, Mac Jones will likely utilize him throughout the season, thus limiting the load for Stevenson.
Robinson adds a new dynamic in his first year in New England. Before the injuries that have plagued him the last two seasons, he was on a trajectory toward the top of the league. He was scarcely used during his time with the Jets for an unknown reason but is set to take on more responsibility with the Patriots since the departure of Damien Harris this offseason.
So where would this leave Elliott?
The former fourth overall pick from the 2016 draft dominated out of the backfield for much of his career. He led all running backs in yards twice during his time in Dallas, earning three Pro Bowl selections as he continued to be a reliable right-hand man for Dak Prescott.
But things began to change between Elliott and his former team over the last three seasons. There was noted conflict between the two, and since Mike McCarthy became the head coach in 2020, he's seen his usage dramatically drop along with his production. His performance through the last three seasons is what reportedly led to his release, making him one of the best running back options remaining available in free agency.
Despite the Patriots' full running back room, Elliott could be an exciting addition. Not only is he a proven talent running the football, but he's also a significant help as a pass-catcher. Because that has been a weak spot among the Patriots' running backs as of late, outside of Stevenson, Elliott's signing would give the team another dual threat out of the backfield, making for a much more dynamic and feared offense that the team desperately needs.
With that said, would Belichick actually be interested in adding another running back? And not just any running back, but Ezekiel Elliott?
Other teams have not shown much interest in him since the start of free agency two months ago. It may be due to his decline in performance or an attitude issue that seemingly made it easier for the Cowboys to release him.
At this point, little has been reported to explain his ongoing free agent status, so it wouldn't hurt for Belichick to at least make a call.