Patriots Mailbag: What Do Running Back Additions Mean For Dion Lewis?

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I feel compelled to say the New England Patriots are on to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Patriots’ 2017 schedule was announced, and boy was it exciting to find out when the Patriots would play their already announced opponents.

It would be a little more exciting if the 2017 NFL Kickoff game was a Super Bowl LI rematch, but the Atlanta Falcons didn’t want to start the season with bad memories of the biggest collapse in NFL history. I guess you can’t really blame them. So it’s on to Kansas City.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyed @DougKyed at first glance, your biggest takeaway from the schedule? (Besides going to some ballin cities) #maildoug
— @KoeglerMatt
First of all, the fact the NFL has tried to make the schedule release a “thing” is incredibly stupid. I find most NFL minutiae to be relatively interesting (the combine, for one). The schedule release? I can’t feign interest. I already knew where I was traveling. Now there are dates attached. Cool.

It’s cool that I’m going to Miami in December again. That’s better than September.

I’m also really excited to go to Mexico City. I’ve never been to Mexico, let alone Mexico City.

It’s a fairly strange schedule, as far as schedules go. The Patriots play five of their six divisional games after the bye, and there’s a stretch where they play five of six games on the road.

I’m interested to see what the Patriots do between their games in Denver and Mexico City. It makes the most sense to stay in Denver or leave for Mexico early. Maybe they’ll do both? They should definitely stay in higher elevation to prepare for Mexico City.

With the signing of Gillislie and Burkehead, are the Pats moving on from L Blount?
— @brucekenerson1
Let’s not put the cart before the horse or the running back before the offensive line. The Patriots signed Gillislee to an offer sheet, but the Buffalo Bills have to decline to match that offer before he goes to the Patriots.

If the Bills decline to match, then yes, it does seem like the Patriots are moving on from LeGarrette Blount. He had a fantastic season in 2016 and was a great Patriot. It probably makes more sense to bring in a younger player, however, especially since Blount slowed down as the 2016 season progressed.

One year and a third round compensatory for Butler, or trade for a second round pick and pick up jmac?
— @ollycurtisUC
The former.

But if the Patriots can trade Butler for a first-round pick or a second- and third-rounder plus sign Jason McCourty? That’s a pretty good deal. Butler is better than McCourty. But McCourty and a first-round pick have more value than Butler. And it’s doubtful the Patriots could sign McCourty without first trading Butler. McCourty will want a starting role.

Hey Doug, just wondering, how will the Patriots 2017 defense compare to the awful 2016 unit and have they played a good offense yet in 2017?
— @PP_Rich_Hill
Jokes highlighting how right I was about the Patriots’ 2016 defense will never get old. I’m a big victory lap guy. I’d bat flip every single time I hit a home run if I were a major league player. Helps raise the ol’ OBP if I get drilled the next time I’m at bat too.

#maildoug Do you think there are back channel endorsement deals arranged by teams as a way of circumventing the NFL salary cap?
— @MrQuindazzi
It’s certainly possible. The punishment, if it wasn’t the Patriots, based on precedent would be a $1 million fine and the loss of a third-round pick.

(If the Patriots were caught, the NFL would probably fine them $200 million and make them trade their entire team, other than Tom Brady, to the Browns. Then the NFL would suspend Brady 50 years and put him in a “Dark Knight Rises”-style prison hole.)

So, those teams would have to decide if the extra cap room was worth the embarrassment, fine and loss of draft pick if they got caught. It’s probably worth it if it results in a Super Bowl win, right?

Hey Doug, thoughts on Pats taking Sidney Jones? Think he’ll be available at 72? #MailDoug
— @Fineparker89
It seems like he could be available at No. 72 after tearing his Achilles at his pro day. I’d do it. Jones was incredible at Washington. He let up just 23 catches on 48 targets for 301 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions in 2016. That was good for a 42.1 passer rating against. He was just as good in 2015.

Jones missed just four tackles in 2016. He’s also a solid athlete, running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash.

The Patriots don’t have glaring needs in the draft, and Jones was going to be a first-round pick before getting injured.

What roles do you see each individual RB having?
— @mjmed11
Let’s assume they acquire Mike Gillislee.

Gillislee: Early-down big back. Think LeGarrette Blount.
James White: Third-down back. Think Kevin Faulk.
Dion Lewis: Do-everything back. Think Danny Woodhead.
Rex Burkhead: Do-everything, including special teams, back. Think Brandon Bolden on steroids. Eh, bad wording. Think Bolden in 2013 but better.

Burkhead is a nice piece because he could fill in for Gillislee, Lewis or White.

If Gillislee sticks with the Buffalo Bills, then Burkhead gets moved up to early-down big back, and Bolden becomes more likely to make the roster as a special-teamer.

If Gillislee sticks with the Bills and the Patriots either sign Blount or draft a running back, then Burkhead would probably split the early-down role.

With us putting an offer sheet in for Gillisee, what does that mean for Dion Lewis?
— @_pchidichimo340
The Patriots could use four running backs as I noted above. Different players could have bigger roles against certain teams. The Patriots also could elect to try to trade Lewis.

The question is how much value he actually would have on the open market since he’s been so injury-prone throughout his NFL career. Consider this: Lewis and New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram both were drafted in 2011. Ingram has played in 40 (!) more games.

The Patriots could package him with Butler to the Saints, since New Orleans doesn’t have a proven shifty back like him on the roster. Would it be worth it, though? Running back depth is important in the NFL, and Lewis is a player worth more than a late-round pick.

Patriots most likely will be trading: Garoppolo, Lewis, and butler. How do you see this panning out in your opinion? #maildoug #noticeme
— @PatsGods
I still believe it’s likely Butler is traded. I would not say it’s likely Garoppolo or Lewis are traded. It could happen but likely is a strong word. I’m not sure if I should be arguing with the Pats Gods, though.

Do you think if (big if) Reuben Foster dropped in the draft and the pats selected him he would be good to pair with Hightower?
— @Mo0n__Child
He’s slightly smaller than the Patriots typically like in their linebackers. I would have liked to have seen his testing numbers, but I think he’d be a great fit next to Dont’a Hightower. The Patriots love their SEC linebackers, and Foster could provide some coverage ability.

Let’s go rapid fire:

softball: is there a coorelation between Sandy Leon having an off week and the Celtics and bruins going 1-5 in the playoffs?
— @RustyRoyas
If you don’t think there’s a correlation, then you don’t believe in the power of Sandy Leon. And if you don’t believe in Sandy Leon, then is there anything to believe in?

Are the Patriots gonna be good this season? #MailDoug #RapidFire
— @JustinMH90
Yeah.

More likely to win the series: Bruins or Celtics?
— @cfloyd38
I hate to say this, because I’m basically co-workers with the Bruins, but I’ll say the Celtics. They were good enough to win the No. 1 seed (even though I still believe they overachieved this season). They should be good enough to come back from a 2-0 deficit.

Who would your pick for the Pats Hall of Fame be this year? #MailDoug
— @Rotsen1230
I’d go Richard Seymour. He’s not as beloved as other players from the Patriots’ first three Super Bowl wins, but he was a borderline Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Will the Patriots earn their shot at a SB by playing a “good” quarterback this year???? #MailDoug
— @2ManyWinProblmz
They play so many good quarterbacks this year. So many litmus tests.

Hey #MailDoug huge fan here. Was wondering how many buds/bugs you give the new Unicorn drink from Starbucks. TYSM
— @coxcourtney
I’d be all over it if there was caffeine in it, but it seems like it might just be milky, fruity, sour weirdness? I’ll give it 10 bugs without trying it. I’m not sure how I feel about milk mixed with sour blue powder.

Now that you’ve been on CNN, does that mean you’re #fakenews?
— @Sam_Galanis
Twitter eggs have always been convinced I’m #fakenews.

@DougKyed Guesses on JE11’s new phrase for 2017? Gotta believe.. #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
“One nibble, everyone knows the law.”

#maildoug beach or pool? And I mean ocean beach not lake
— @rlbyrne29
Am I in New England? Probably a pool, since the water will be warmer, and I can do cool flips into the water.

Am I in a warmer climate? Beach.

I really like waves. I really hate cold water.

Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons ?
— @TMurph207
Nope.

Do you really want to see Jinder Mahal challenge Randy Orton for the #SDLive title, or would you rather go to the dentist? #ToughQuestion
— @Mart_78
I haven’t been to the dentist in a while, so probably the latter. I wish Jinder would be more hindered.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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