The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2017 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. While the team has the third most salary cap room in the NFL this season, they have a slew of free agents including several who are either starters or important role players.
We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the players facing free agency is running back LaGarrette Blount.
The Patriots got a career season from Blount in 2016. He was the main back in the running game and logged 299 carries for 1161 yards and a league-best 18 touchdowns this season, all career highs. His touchdown total broke Curtis Martin’s franchise record and he surpassed his three previous Patriots seasons combined of 16 TDs with a tremendous 2016.
However, Blount’s production tailed off down the stretch and in the playoffs, he managed only 109 yards and one touchdown in three games. Blount is now at age 30 when many of the big backs begin to show the wear and tear on their bodies.
Blount for a big man (6’0, 250 pounds), isn’t a typical short yardage runner. He’s patient and takes his time, looking for an opening and then once he gets to the second level, accelerates, and becomes very hard to bring down. That’s why he needs a lot of work in-game to really see his effectiveness come thru. He may get several carries for little or negative yardage but as the game carries on into the second half, he’ll wear down a defense and provide some big gains.
With him being a free agent, the Patriots really don’t have another big back that can carry the load in the running game. James White and Dion Lewis are primarily effective in the passing game with the occasional runs during the game. Ditto for rookie RB D.J. Foster. Brandon Bolden only contributed on STs during the year.
Why Blount Will Return: The Patriots could easily bring Blount back to Foxboro in 2016 because there probably won’t be much interest in him elsewhere. He hasn’t shown that he can be successful anywhere but in New England.
He could be brought back with an incentive laden veteran minimum type of deal. Bill Belichick has always liked Blount and he seems very happy to be here in New England. As long as the Patriots are interested in keeping him, I don’t see Blount looking to move on to anywhere else.
Blount knows the offense, has no issues with being part of a rotation at the running back position and always gives the maximum effort. He seems to be well-liked and admired in the Patriots locker room.
Why Blount Won’t Return: There are always concerns and justifiable ones when a big running back hits the 30-year old mark. Blount had the most carries in his career in 2016 and he definitely seemed to wear down as the season progressed especially down the stretch.
The Patriots could use an influx of youth at the big back position. There are several in the draft or free agency that could be had that would allow them to keep defenses honest and keep the rotation of the backs going.
Unlike many of the other free agents, money won’t be an issue with Blount.
Bottom Line: The Patriots could use an upgrade at the big running back position. Blount has hit 30 and while he was tremendously productive inside the red zone in 2016, his playoff performances weren’t what you’d expect from him.
I’d look for them to draft a mid-round prospect replacement for him this spring. However, because he’ll attract little attention on the free agency market, it won’t be surprising in the least to see Blount back in a Patriots uniform in 2017 on a veteran minimum deal with incentives laden in. Blount has made it clear that he wants to remain here.
“I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England,” Blount said on NFL Total Access Monday. “I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I’ve become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously, you know how my running back group is. We’ll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I’m in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to.”
So, the way we see it, the chances of him returning this year are better than 50/50.
Posted Under: 2017 Free Agency
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots Roster 2016 Patriots season 2017 NFL Free Agency 2017 Patriots free agents Bill Belichick D.J. Foster Dion Lewis James White LaGarrette Blount Patriots running backs Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady