Patriots named the 'best fit' for 4-time Pro Bowl running back

Caroliina Panthers v Tennessee Titans
Caroliina Panthers v Tennessee Titans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

It's an exciting yet critical offseason for the Patriots, with a lot of expectations and pressure for new head coach Jerod Mayo and his staff. The upcoming draft has received a lot of buzz due to their top-3 selection and all the roster holes that need to be addressed. But free agency begins next week, and the Patriots have a lot of cash to spend.

With around $100 million available, there's no reason for the team not to be significantly improved next season, especially on offense. Many questions will need to be answered surrounding the quarterbacks and who of the long list of their own pending free agents should be re-signed, but who they bring in will be just as important.

Because they are set to have the second most cap space, no player is really out of their reach, which has not been the case for most of the last two decades. The 2023 season was the wake-up call the organization needed, and Mayo could kick his tenure off to a hot start by pulling in some of the top talents who will be available.

A great start would be a player that NFL writer Nick Shook believes would be a great fit for New England: running back Derrick Henry.

The four-time Pro Bowler looks to be on his way out of Tennessee for the first time in his career, making him one of the best free agents this year. The Patriots need another running back to pair with Rhamondre Stevenson, and Henry looks everything the part and then some. It would be quite the addition to their improving roster.

Shook believes that at this point in his career, Henry won't receive a league-high contract and would pair well with the Patriots' backfield as it is while also being a major weapon for the presumed rookie quarterback who will lead the offense in 2024.

"Henry appears set to depart Tennessee after spending all eight years of his professional career in Nashville, but at 30 years old, he likely won't command top dollar. While he proved in 2023 he can still get the job done quite well, his odometer is loaded with miles, leaving him to sign a short-term deal with a contender -- unless none of them express interest in his services. A similar situation happened with Ezekiel Elliott and the Patriots last season, and with quarterback very much unsettled in New England, adding a load-bearing back to assist a young signal-caller might be the move, especially considering Henry could come rather cheap."

Would signing Derrick Henry be the right move for the Patriots?

Henry's career speaks for itself, and although many question paying running backs, especially an aging one, he doesn't appear to have slowed down over the last few years. In fact, he's led the league in carries in four of the last five seasons, including 2023, and recorded over 1,000 yards on the ground in all but one of those as well.

Signing him would add another dynamic player to the offense to help put them over the top while allowing them to split the snaps between him and Stevenson. It would take a lot of pressure off a young quarterback to have a reliable backfield and could instill some fear in opposing defenses again, which the Patriots haven't done in far too long.

Making this happen will depend on several factors, including Henry's aspirations. New England isn't the place if he wants to go to a contender. If he wants to get paid, though, they could be. But there's also a need to consider Stevenson and how they view him as a part of the offense in the future.

He's entering the final year of his contract and has spoken about wanting to be the primary back for the team. Adding Henry puts that vision in doubt and could potentially alienate Stevenson to the point of him wanting off the team at the end of the year.

Henry's presence would inevitably boost the offense for the short term, and it's hard to argue against it. However, if the new staff wants to keep homegrown talent and build a younger team, passing on signing Henry may be what they need to do.

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