Tag Archives: free agent profile

Patriots Free Agent Profile, LeGarrette Blount

Steve Balestrieri
January 30, 2016 at 9:00 am ET

The Patriots have had issues running the football for the past several years and they’ve brought in LaGarrette Blount twice to help with those. Now they have to decide whether or not to test the waters with him one final time.

In a pass first, pass often offense, the team still needs a big, physical between the tackles running back. While Dion Lewis and James White are dynamic in the passing game, they don’t have the physicality to carry the load in the running game especially for the tough yards inside.

Blount’s season was cut short when he suffered a hip injury and was placed on IR in December. It was a season of unfulfilled promise as he showed up to training camp a bit lighter and with seemingly a bit faster jump in his step. It was an encouraging beginning to the season as he showed up ready to carve out a role for a team looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

But problems with the offensive line that manifested early in camp continued thru the season and the Patriots running game was constantly either stuck in neutral or relegated to an after-thought. That isn’t a knock on Blount or the other running backs, they simply had nowhere to run. Injuries forced the team’s hand and they had to start three rookies in the interior of the line. The running game suffered for that and never really recovered.

Blount for a big man (6’ 250 pounds), isn’t an exceptional short yardage runner. He takes his time, looks 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 wears on, he’ll break a couple for big gains.

Blount’s numbers through 12 games, 165 carries, 703 yards for a 4.3-yard average and 6 touchdowns are decent enough considering he often had very little room to run. Taking into account that the only options right now are to either bring him back or go with Brandon Bolden who is primarily a special teams’ stalwart or the twice injured and unproven Tyler Gaffney, it is clear to see the Patriots need to bring in some help at the big running back position.

Blount has played his best football as a member of the Patriots, his stays at Tampa and Pittsburgh were marred by off-field incidents and/or poor production. His two playoff games against the Colts in 2013 and 2014 were immediate stuff of legend for Patriots fans and he was a big part of the Super Bowl winning team a year ago.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported that Blount didn’t require surgery for his injured hip and he should be good to go for the start of training camp. While that is certainly a good sign, one has to question whether at age 29, the wear and tear on a big man that carry’s the ball inside will begin to take its toll. Hip injuries can tend to be of the chronic nature and it certainly will bear watching.

Blount is at the age where big backs begin to decline, this may be a factor in whether or not the Patriots will decide to bring him back or not in 2016. And as we’ve seen the Patriots tend to cut ties with a player a year too soon rather than a year too late.

Why Blount Will Return: Blount could easily return 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 and his troubles off the field have manifested in other places.

He could be brought back in a minimum type deal with a contract heavily laden with incentives. Bill Belichick has always liked Blount and vice versa and he’s always been a good teammate and citizen here with no issues off the field. His comfort level here with the coaches and in the locker room is well known.

He knows the offense and is a known commodity, while he’s not going to set the world on fire, he can be a productive running back in the Patriots system and won’t worry about nor will complain about a lack of a work load.

Why Blount Won’t Return: The Patriots need an upgrade here. Blount has done well with his opportunities but the team can use a big back that can attack the holes in the running game and add a bit in the passing game, (not Blount’s strong suit).

When the season starts, he’ll be less than six months’ shy of his 30th birthday and that’s at the age when the big backs begin to decline. I think we’ve already seen the best that we will from Blount and the team best interests are that they need to find a better solution.

Bottom Line: There’s still an even money chance that the Patriots will give him a veteran minimum-type deal and allow him to compete for a job during training camp. But they really need to take the onus off of Tom Brady and the passing offense to throw on 80 percent of the snaps.

While there are several free agents out there (Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, Doug Martin) that are of interest to Patriots fans, those players will probably be way out of the price range that New England likes to spend. For that matter, Lamar Miller from Miami would be the perfect fit here, but likewise, would the Patriots invest the cash for a running back, a position they’ve traditionally devalued? History says no.

There are options in the NFL Draft coming up and we’ll bring along some names that we feel you should keep an eye on. The Patriots can find a suitable running back without having to use a 2nd or even a 3rd round draft pick on this season.

For that reason, I think that the Patriots will move on from Blount and he won’t return in 2016.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Free Agent Profile Akiem Hicks

Steve Balestrieri
January 29, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots defensive line entered the 2015 season with some questions. It was the first time in more than a decade that they’d not have big Vince Wilfork clogging the middle. And with questions about how the rookie 1st round draft pick Malcom Brown would work out, the Patriots ability to stop the run as well as push the pocket from the interior was not as sure as in years past.

The Patriots traded for Akiem Hicks on September 30, sending backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to the New Orleans Saints for his services. At the time the trade made little fanfare, but it ended up being a steal for New England. Now at the end of the 2015 season, Hicks is the team’s biggest free agent priority to bring back in 2016.

Hicks was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Saints and after three seasons due to a change in philosophy as well as diminishing returns, he was relegated to a backup role in New Orleans. There were some whisperings of his work ethic, which made the trade seem like a bust. But Hicks just needed a fresh start and has been a valued member of the team.

He started slowly as the four-man rotation featuring Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga was already set. But when Dominique Easley went down with a season ending injury, Hicks stepped in to the third player in the rotation and played very well.

The big 6’4, 325-pound lineman is versatile, a Bill Belichick staple and can play anywhere from 0-technique to a 5-technique. His ability to stop the run and collapse the pocket were big parts of the Patriots defense down the stretch. His role increased as he became more familiar with the Patriots system and given a better defined role once Easley went down.

Playing a 5-technique defensive end in the Big Easy, he played more of a defensive tackle role in New England moving in different spots on the line. He logged 21 tackles, including 15 in the final four games, with three sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2015. He uses his big frame and plays with good leverage in the running game but has long arms that he can shed blockers in pass rushing, his specialty.

“I think that my time here has been spent well, focusing on what I need to do to become a better player, in general,” Hicks said just prior to the playoffs beginning. “And then, along with the coaches, keeping me as a part of the defense and pushing me forward.”

And it never hurts to get a little love from the head coach. Bill Belichick was singing his praises to the media earlier this month.

“We change things a little bit fairly regularly, Belichick said. “So there is definitely an element of game planning and things we do specific to one team that don’t necessarily carry over from the week before, so I think that’s an adjustment for a lot of players that come in here. But he’s done a good job, he works hard, he’s certainly improved and gotten a lot better in all those areas.”

Why Hicks Will Return: Versatility, leadership and production. And he’s only 26 years old so he’s just entering his prime. Hicks seems to have found a second lease on his career in New England this season and his signing will align him with Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins to give the team an incredibly young and talented nucleus for the front seven.

The Patriots had their eye on Hicks this season at the joint practices in West Virginia, Belichick said as much back in September when they made the trade for what was their fourth tight end on the depth chart.

They know what they have in Hicks and he was just finding his groove at the end of the season after a slow start. He should only get better in 2016.

Why Hicks Won’t Return: Money. Hicks’ performance may put him in-line for a huge payday that the Patriots may decide that is too rich for their blood. Belichick is a pragmatist when it comes to contracts. He will pay a player what he feels that player is worth and not a penny more.

If another team comes in with an offer for big money, Hicks could be moving on next season. The Patriots won’t be the only team vying for his services as Hicks plays a position that is always paid and paid well in free agency.

Bottom line: Our take is that there is a better than 50/50 chance that Hicks will return to wear the Flying Elvis in 2016. He’s more than shown he’s a fit. And once he got to play regularly, he played and played well. Now that he’s comfortable in the system, he should be even better next season.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.