Patriots Mailbag: Which Available Veteran Running Back Holds Most Value?

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It’s been a sleepy NFL Scouting Combine so far. And it won’t suddenly grow anymore exciting for those that don’t care about combine drills and measurables.

I do care, though. Possibly too much. Few things irrationally fascinate me more than 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill times. I pathetically wait way too long and grow impatient when combine results aren’t posted to NFL.com in a timely fashion, and I’ll probably even tweet my frustration.

But I care because NFL teams care. Players wouldn’t be forced to go through the drills if scouts and coaches didn’t. So, don’t worry. We’ll have you covered with every second and inch.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag before the combine drills start at 9 a.m.

@DougKyed if AP, Charles, Martin and Blount all would sign for same price, which one would you take right now?
— @JefFullerMyself
That’s a really tough question. I might go with Doug Martin, 28, simply because he’s at least two years younger than Adrian Peterson, 31, LeGarrette Blount, 30, and Jamaal Charles, 30. Age is one of the most important stats when it comes to running backs.

Martin, who hasn’t even been released yet (though he very well could), also is suspended the first four games of the 2017 season and coming off an injury-hampered season in which he gained just 2.9 yards per carry, so it’s not like he’s perfect by any means. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Martin, and if the Patriots signed him, they’d need some insurance for those first four games.

Blount had the best season in 2016, carrying the ball 299 times for 1,161 yards with 18 touchdowns, but he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and tailed off in the second half. He carried the ball 85 times for 239 yards, averaging 2.8 yards per carry, with five touchdowns in his final six games, including playoffs.

I’d put Martin, Blount and Charles bunched at the top with Peterson trailing behind. I think Martin could rejuvenate his career with the Patriots, and he could stick around longer than the other names. Plus, I think Patriots fans could come up with a better nickname than Muscle Hamster, though hearing “Muscle Hamstah” would be pretty funny.

A quick aside: I covered the 2012 Senior Bowl, and Martin stayed on the field signing autographs for kids well after the rest of his fellow draft prospects. That’s always stuck with me.

All four players come with risk.

@DougKyed will the patriots target a big name WR this off season
— @RealKaptinKush
No, and I don’t think they need to.

The Patriots are pretty stacked at wide receiver with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater and Devin Lucien all under contract. Amendola will need to take a pay cut to stick around, but even just having Edelman, Hogan, Mitchell, Slater and Lucien on the roster doesn’t necessitate adding a big-name free agent.

The Patriots could bring back Michael Floyd, a free agent, or add another slot receiver, but Edelman, Hogan and Mitchell are a nice core.

@DougKyed Do the Pats change their MO and sign free agents. They are quite a bit under the cap.
— @randy_kimball
Probably not? And that’s for a couple of reasons.

1. The Patriots don’t exactly have a long tradition of signing players without either meeting or knowing them prior. The Patriots pretty much never sign high-profile guys on the first day of free agency with Amendola being the recent exception to the rule. And with Amendola, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had prior knowledge of the player from their time with the Rams. Most of the best and highest-priced free agents are gone after the first day of free agency. And they usually sign for more than they’re worth and don’t hang around on their new teams for very long. Case in point: Jared Odrick. Signing free agents on the first day of the new league year is mostly a fool’s errand.

2. The Patriots typically don’t like to sign high-profile free agents because it messes with their compensatory draft pick formula. The Patriots seem to prefer signing released players, trading or acquiring restricted free agents so they still wind up with compensatory picks.

I still think the Patriots will use most of their available cap room re-signing their own players rather than adding unknown commodities for more than they’re worth. Extending Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Alan Branch would eat up a decent amount of cap space. It also is never a bad idea to carry over cap room into the next season.

If Jared Odrick does sign with the Pats, who’s he replacing or is he just added depth/role player for inside pressure? @DougKyed #MailDoug
— @BostonPatriot86
Given Odrick’s versatility, if he signs, he could potentially replace Rob Ninkovich, Alan Branch or Malcom Brown as a starter on the Patriots’ defense. The most likely scenario is he would replace Chris Long as a chess piece along the Patriots’ front seven.

Odrick can play defensive end in base packages and defensive tackle in passing situations. He also could play three-technique defensive tackle on early downs.

I think Odrick could thrive in New England if he and the Patriots can work out a deal.

@DougKyed If Hightower leaves in FA, which LBs should the Pats target in the draft to replace him?
— @AirLarsen
The best one.

The Patriots need to find a really, really good linebacker in the draft to replace Hightower if they lose him, because Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy can’t do it.

To be fair, the Patriots have been pretty damn good at drafting linebackers lately with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Hightower and Jamie Collins. So if anyone can do it, the Patriots can.

@DougKyed well, will the pats ever extend some players before FA ?
— @cote_phil
What? You’re not happy with Rob Ninkovich, Marcus Cannon, Jonathan Freeny and Matthew Slater?

At least they re-signed those guys, right? They don’t have to worry about Jonathan Freeny.

The Patriots will eventually spend money. They won’t carry over $60 million in 2018 because that would be really, really dumb.

Let’s go rapid fire:

@DougKyed Doug. My buddies hate the Pats. How do I deal with these jealous SOB’s?
— @wilroache
Are they constantly bringing up Deflategate and Spygate and stuff? If so, tell them they’re not funny or original. Then sheepishly laugh and say, “I’m not angry, I’m laughing.”

@DougKyed milk before cereal or cereal before milk?
— @mstanoisNFL
I’m not a big cereal guy, but you have to go cereal before milk. Otherwise, you wind up with milk all over your countertops.

@DougKyed #maildoug Should the Patriots let all the FAs walk, sign all league min guys, then roll $50M over to next year?
— @MrQuindazzi
I feel like this is a bad idea, Mr. Q.

@DougKyed you’re stuck on a stranded island and you can bring one thing to eat for the rest of your time, what is is ?
— @dawes_matt
I’ll bring some Town Spa Pizza.

I might try to sneak some donuts too, though.

@DougKyed who will be the jets qb next year?
— @TuckerRossCon
Hmm. Probably something dumb like Mike Glennon.

@DougKyed 1) what are your thoughts on the pineapple on pizza debate

2) is a hotdog a sandwich?????

3) Sup? #MailDoug
— @June__NYC
1. For it.

2. Is a sandwich a hot dog?

3. I’m writing my mailbag much earlier than usual, so blame that if it’s subpar for any reason.

@June__NYC @DougKyed

Gel or pomade? #maildoug
— @DarrylJohnston
Pomade.

@DougKyed Should you fold a slice of pizza in order to eat it?
— @rankjas
If you have to.

Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyed.

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