With many running backs available on the 2016 free agency market, many speculated that the Patriots might make a splash. Bigger names like Matt Forte, Lamar Miller, and C.J. Anderson were available.
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) February 23, 2016
The market was so deep it allowed Bill Belichick the ability to sit back and watch some of the other teams set the bar. Luckily the Patriots already had most of their important role players returning. They exercised patience, while other teams pulled the trigger and cut deals. This patient approach helped the Patriots acquire free agents like Chris Long, Chris Hogan, and Martellus Bennett later down the road.
There was evidence again this Tuesday that their restraint had paid off. The Patriots announced that they were bringing back LeGarrette Blount on a one year deal for a minuscule $765,000 base contract.
LeGarrette Blount back for another season with the @Patriots?
That means… a whole lot more of THIS. https://t.co/CAoUJbEKTC
— NFL (@NFL) April 12, 2016
Down the stretch of the 2015 season, many players fell victim to the injury bug at Gillette Stadium. One of the positions impacted the most was running back. First it was Dion Lewis, then it was Blount. Both would have injuries that would not allow them to return until 2016.
The injuries to Lewis and Blount wouldn’t leave Belichick with enough options in the backfield. They would attempt to involve former practice squad player Joey Iosefa but he wasn’t enough. Steven Jackson was signed as a free agent later in the year but it was clear the 32-year-old fallen star didn’t have the legs any longer. With a shoddy offensive line and backup running backs, the potential of winning back-to-back Super Bowls was ultimately gone.
Until Tuesday, the Patriots still had a glaring hole on the offensive side of the ball. There was no running back on the roster that ran in Blount’s punishing style. The team had to acquire a powerful downhill runner that can pound the football inside the box.
LeGarrette Blount Rushes for 150-plus yards, finds endzone four times in Pats blowout over Colts!! Yeah Baby http://t.co/xwhwTZJ01K
— 6xSuperBowlChamps (@UKPatriotsfan22) November 20, 2014
With the return of Blount it appears that New England has formed a very well rounded offensive beast yet again. With Tom Brady at quarterback and an arsenal of weapons accompanying him, the Patriots pack a potent punch for even the best defensive group in the NFL.
Waiting for the free agency market to shake out left the Patriots with a degree of leverage over the market. Belichick once again proved his general manager prowess. With the current state of the running back position in the NFL it’s quantity over quality. The Patriots never needed a guy like Forte, Miller, or Anderson to win a Super Bowl. They just needed someone who will reliably run the ball, stay healthy, and not fumble.
Looking toward the 2016 draft, the Patriots still likely draft a running back at some point. They now return their two best running backs: Lewis and Blount. Both players are close to thirty years old and returning from season ending injuries. James White and Brandon Bolden will return in 2016. While they are both certainly talented players, they aren’t the same caliber player compared to Lewis or Blount. Donald Brown is also thrown into the mix, but he already twenty eight years old, yet to average over fifty yards a game in any season.
Hopefully Blount will be one of those players who can consistently get the job done and stay healthy in 2016. Even if he doesn’t perform or is injured, there are running backs behind him on the depth chart capable of picking up the slack. As always with a Belichick deal, Blount’s deal is Patriots friendly: low risk, high reward.
Bang for the buck.