Patriots Mailbag: Assessing New England’s Actual Need At Running Back

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The New England Patriots went a long time without doing anything.

Before re-signing Brandon Bolden on Wednesday, the Patriots hadn’t made an acquisition since March 16, when they re-upped linebacker Dont’a Hightower. They hadn’t made a transaction since March 20, when they released running back Tyler Gaffney. So, yeah, it’s been a little boring around here lately.

Despite the lack of activity, Patriots fans still are filled with questions. Let’s answer some of them in this week’s mailbag.

Is RB in the draft a real need? We have five RBs on the team already (includes Bolden)
— @TheProBeest
In 2017? Not necessarily. The Patriots have Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden to play the early-down role and James White, Lewis, Burkhead, Bolden and D.J. Foster as pass-catchers. Bolden mostly plays on special teams at this point, but he at least serves as in-game insurance in a pinch.

But in 2018 and beyond? Absolutely. Bolden’s contract details haven’t been disclosed yet, but Burkhead, Lewis and White all will be free agents after this season. The Patriots ideally will draft a running back to groom as a big back behind Burkhead if they don’t feel they can sign him to a longer-term deal.

There are only so many spots on a 53-man roster for running backs, though, unless the Patriots don’t intend on trotting out a defense this season, which might finally make the AFC East fair. So the Patriots could go another season without drafting a running back, but it’s not ideal for their long-term plans.

Do you see us drafting a wide receiver or would you say we’re pretty set with who we have now? #MailDoug
— @BradyToCooks
I could see them drafting a developmental slot receiver, but like at running back, it’s not completely necessary. The Patriots have Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (for now) under contract for one more season apiece, Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan for two more years and Malcolm Mitchell for three more seasons.

Edelman, Amendola, Hogan and Cooks can play in the slot. If the Patriots think they could lose Edelman after next season, they should draft another receiver.

One would think Edelman would be fairly easy to bring back as a would-be 32-year-old receiver, though. No one wants to see anything get between his bromance with Tom Brady.

@DougKyed May be too early to tell but do you think Malcolm Mitchell sees a bigger role in the offense this year? #MailDoug
— @ChaseDawg2
If anything, he’ll likely see a smaller role on offense since the Patriots added Cooks. I don’t think Mitchell’s role evaporates, but it could be tough to find him snaps with Cooks, Edelman, Hogan, possibly Amendola, White, Burkhead, Lewis, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen all in the offense. (What a stupidly stacked arsenal of offensive weapons.)

I could see the Patriots rotating Mitchell in for Edelman and Hogan at times, and I could see them going with four-receiver sets. But I can’t see Mitchell being a starter in 2017. It would take an injury.

#maildoug butler’s behavior would suggest he truly has burned his bridges and wants out no matter what. Am I misunderstanding?
— @rlbyrne29
I’m not sure if you’re misunderstanding as much as you are engaging in some hyperbolic pseudo fan-fiction.

Butler hasn’t said or done anything that suggests he’s burned any bridges. Some reports have said he’s not pleased that the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore to a massive contract. If anything, the Patriots burned bridges by signing Gilmore while balking from giving Butler similar money.

Butler is a restricted free agent, so visiting the New Orleans Saints is pretty much par for the course. Dont’a Hightower wasn’t burning bridges when the New York Jets threw him a birthday party, right?

What’s going on with Butler? Why hasn’t he signed his tender yet? #MailDoug
— @Troseviper13
Because he’s still waiting to see if a team will sign him to an offer sheet, which would be in his best interest, because that would mean receiving a big contract this offseason rather than next.

There’s no reason for Butler to sign his tender before the draft. If you knew you could get $10 whenever you wanted, but there was a chance you could get $100 by waiting to sign your name on a piece of paper before the end of the month, wouldn’t you wait?

#MailDoug Butler for Sherman straight up (assuming Butler signs tender and works out a long term deal w/Hawks). Who says no?
— @MrQuindazzi
Maybe both teams. Butler doesn’t have the size the Seattle Seahawks usually look for in a cornerback. He definitely fits the Saints’ system better than the Seahawks’.

I think the Patriots ideally would receive a higher pick for Butler than they would have to give up for Sherman. Sherman likely will be the better player in 2017, but Butler is two years younger, and Sherman showed signs of potentially slowing down in 2016.

It would be insanely fun to have Sherman on the Patriots, no matter how it would have to go down.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Will the Red Sox ever lose again?
— @RustyRoyas
Is Sandy Leon still on the team? Right. Then no.

Who Makes the cut in September: ted karras or tre jackson?
— @jasproemelt
Ted Karras, because he’s the backup center.

@DougKyed Favourite sports moment, non football related
— @rankjas
Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004.

The Mariners beating the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS is a close second.

Is pass rusher or off the line LB a bigger need?
— @ChefdDds89
Pass rusher. Some of the pass rushers the Patriots have met with could also potentially play off-the-line linebacker, though.

If Sandy Leon and Tom Brady had a love child, What would you name him and what sport would he play?
— @PatsGods
His name was Babe Ruth, and he was a time traveler.

Peeps. Some people love them, some hate them. Bug or bud? #maildoug
— @ItsRachelHolt
This is a truly hot-button issue. I don’t really understand why people don’t like Peeps. Do they not like marshmallows?

I’d give a regular Peep one bud. They’re good, but I don’t love them as much as, say, Starburst jelly beans, a Cadbury Creme Egg or Cadbury Mini Eggs.

Easter candy is the best.

What are the chances Tim Tebow is signed by the Browns after his homerun #MailDoug
— @jkrebsmlbnfl
Slim, but he could eventually give Sandy Leon a run for his money as the best baseball player alive.

#maildoug what are your expectations for Kendrick Lamar’s new album?
— @ovelevy
I’m sure everyone will love it. I’ll probably keep listening to bands I liked in 2003, though.

Coke or Pepsi?
— @KazerTazer
I’m a diet guy, because I’m vain. Diet Coke is roughly 1,000 times better than Diet Pepsi. It’s the equivalent of eating buffalo blasts from Cheesecake Factory versus a gas station turkey sandwich.

sup? #maildoug
— @June__NYC
Watching “The Goonies.” That’s pretty much it.

Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images

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