The entire offseason, the Patriots have been looking for a talented running back to pair with obvious starter Rhamondre Stevenson. After letting Damien Harris walk in free agency, the running back room appears too thin to head into the upcoming season.
Although Stevenson will carry the majority of the load, second-year players Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. seemingly haven't proven enough to Bill Belichick to keep the roster as it is. This led to the signing of James Robinson early in free agency but ultimately ended with the former Jaguars' star being waived.
Since then, we've seen multiple running backs come through Foxboro for workouts, including Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and Darrell Henderson; all left without contracts.
They are reportedly out on Fournette and another free agent in Dalvin Cook but are said to be still interested in signing Elliott before the season. It's assumed a deal won't get done until Cook gets a deal somewhere, presumably the Jets, but there's no timetable for when that will happen either.
But now the Patriots may have another opportunity to make a big splash in their attempt to improve their offensive roster before the season begins.
Because of the current standoff between the Raiders and Josh Jacobs, the leading rusher of the 2022 season may become available before hitting free agency next year. Las Vegas released their first unofficial depth chart this week, which left Jacobs off the list of starters, and appears to still be uninterested in working a deal out with their star player.
If Jacobs does hold out like he's threatened, or the Raiders decide to rescind the franchise tag and ultimately release him, or they choose to trade him, the Patriots could make a move to sign/trade for the game-changing back.
A new article by Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports lists New England as one of the most logical landing spots if Jacobs does become available in some capacity, referring to their apparent desire to add another RB to the roster as a primary reason.
"Rhamondre Stevenson is lead-back material, but New England has been eyeing proven insurance for months, signing or courting James Robinson, Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott and others. They're not usually one to prefer a workhorse to a committee, but in a make-or-break year for their offense, a Jacobs rental could be enticing. And the Patriots connections among Raiders brass could help facilitate a deal. They've got enough cap space ($17 million) to carry Jacobs on the tag, if needed."
Considering the free agents that have come through for workouts have seemed not to work out, acquiring Jacobs through trade would be an intriguing road to take. Besides the connection between Belichick and Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have the salary cap to afford Jacobs and may be willing to give up a draft pick or two if they could make a long-term deal with the running back.
Imagine a backfield consisting of Jacobs and Stevenson, two powerful and dominant runners with dual-threat abilities that would add extra weaponry to Mac Jones' arsenal.
That sounds incredible.
However, possibly having to give up multiple picks for rental would not be ideal. Although they would essentially have to gamble with Jacobs agreeing to sign a multi-year extension, it feels like something should be prioritized when deciding to get the trade done.
Like Stevenson, Jacobs is also young (25 years old) and has a lot left in the tank. But he will want a big money extension that the Raiders have been unwilling to give him. If that is something Belichick would be willing to do, which he hasn't done in the past and may be reluctant to do with Stevenson needing a new contract soon, then exploring the trade should be on the Patriots' radar.
If it comes down to signing him through free agency, Jacobs would likely sign elsewhere if he's looking for success more than money.
Regardless, this entire scenario is an exciting thought and would immediately solve the depth issue at the running back position. But since the standoff with his current team continues, we'll have to wait and see what happens with Jacobs and what his future will bring before getting too invested in hypotheticals.