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MORSE: Running Backs Work Out, Thoughts on Hopkins Choosing Titans and Morse’s Morsels

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 months ago at 9:13 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Running Backs Work Out, Thoughts on Hopkins Choosing Titans and Morse’s MorselsEric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs Work Out for Patriots

Leonard Fournette and Darrell Henderson worked out for the team Wednesday.  Fournette is 28 years old and not the running back he once was.  However, as a change of pace, a backup to Rahmondre Stevenson would be great insurance.  Fournette is 6’ 228 lbs and looks bigger than his actual size because he runs so upright.  He had an 88% catch rate last year with 73 catches on 83 targets.  Fournette has only fumbled 4 times in his career (2 each running and receiving) and the 2 fumbles running the ball were both in his rookie season.

Could he be the third down back?  I don’t think he would be that expensive and give them a veteran presence.  This would be a sneaky good signing for the Patriots.  Henderson has a history of being hurt and has never played a complete season.  The 5’ 8” 208 lb back is very good at QB protection and a good pass-catching back.  He had 1742 rushing yards (4.4 YPC) and 66 catches in his career for the 2019 draft pick.  Henderson will be 26 in August.  Ty Montgomery has already been moved to WR, and that was before the Hopkins announcement.

Other Running Backs Available

Kareem Hunt, a very reliable third-down back is still out there as is Ezekiel Elliott.  I don’t believe that Elliott would make sense since he would want the primary role and would cost too much.  Hunt makes more sense.

Patriots lose out on DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins signed a 2-year contract with the Tennessee Titans this week for an estimated $26M.  Incentives could push this deal over $32M.  The Titans were the more aggressive team over the last few weeks.  It appears they wanted to get the deal done more than the Patriots did.  Tennessee came closer to the money that Odell Beckham received ($15M), which is the target that Hopkins wanted.  The guaranteed money was more like $12M in the 1st year and the incentives were easier to achieve.  The Patriots were close to that $15M mark.  The Patriots’ offer was south of $10M the 1st year and the rest were harder incentives bringing it close to $15M.

Bill Belichick has positions slotted by the amount of money he is willing to pay.  He is not going to exceed it and upset the apple cart in terms of compensation.  I do believe that Hopkins took the Patriots’ offer and gave that to Tennessee to see if they could exceed it and they did.  Belichick has been known to ask his players to get their best offer and come back and see if the Patriots could come close.  Sometimes that works out and others it doesn’t.  The Patriots didn’t value the 31-year-old Hopkins enough to exceed the Tennessee offer.  It was always going to come down to money with Hopkins.

Massachusetts Millionaires Tax

Tennessee does not have a state income tax on wages earned in the state.  The Millionaires tax has become a problem for professional sports teams in Massachusetts to compete for Free Agents.  The recent case of Grant Williams and the Celtics is a good example.  The Celtics offered him a similar deal that he received from Dallas Mavericks.  However, when the Millionaires Tax was applied he would be receiving a couple of million less if he stayed in Boston.

Morse’s Morsels

Malik Cunningham Working Out as Quarterback

In the off-season, Malik Cunningham has worked out at QB as much as WR.  It will be interesting to see what he will be doing once camp starts.  Cunningham as a 3rd QB makes sense and would be a path for a UDFA to make the team.  A UDFA has made the final 53-man roster for 21 consecutive years.

Devaluation of the Running Back Position

It’s something the Patriots have been ahead of the curve on, but now the league has caught on.  Saquan Barkley and Josh Jacobs have not signed their Franchise Tag offers, hoping to sign long-term deals.  They were unsuccessful and can hold out of training camp without penalty.  Tony Pollard signed his tag and will be in camp but he also didn’t get the long-term deal he was seeking.   A lot of these “star” backs have quite a bit of mileage on their tires and teams are reluctant to sign them long-term.   These backs carry a big load and the wear and tear takes its toll.  I would like to see the Patriots offer Rhamondre Stevenson some security with an extension giving him some signing bonus this year for two more years on his rookie deal.  He has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over his career.  He is one of the best running backs after 1st contact and making tacklers miss.

Two Roster Spots Available

The coaches are back in the building and I expect those two spots to be filled before camp starts.  WR Denzel Mims has been rumored to be getting the ax from the Jets.  They are trying to trade him and the Pats and Steelers are interested.  I think this may be just the NY media helping out the team by stating the Patriots are interested and forcing the Steelers to cough up a draft pick to jump ahead of the Patriots who would have a higher priority if he was waived.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Ready For Camp

Reports are out that Snith-Schuster will be a go for the start of camp.  This is great news and I am anxious to see how he works with Mac Jones.  His play will have a major impact on the Patriots’ Offensive game plan.    He is expected to pick up for the loss of Jakobi Meyers’ receptions.  I would not be surprised to see him report with the rookies on Friday as a player coming off an injury.  There is just as good a chance that he starts on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list.

Jets star Running back Breece Hall Starts the Season on PUP

Don’t be alarmed that Hall is on the list.  He can come off at any time.

Rookies Report to Camp on Friday 

They get a jump on camp reporting a few days early.  They will get their conditioning test and must pass it to start camp.  Some veterans recovering from injuries may also report early.  Camp opens to the public on Wednesday, July 26th.  Check out for details on how to attend.  It’s a great take especially if you have kids that would enjoy a close-up look at the team.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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