FOXBORO, Mass. — While the New England Patriots signed running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee and extended James White, Dion Lewis sat back and stayed on his current contract.
While it’s extremely likely that Lewis will make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, his contract doesn’t make it set in stone, since New England would free up nearly $1.3 million in salary-cap space if he were released. Lewis is accustomed to some uncertainty, since he was out of the NFL three years ago, and he doesn’t mind that the Patriots added some competition for his playing time over the offseason.
“Every year, there’s turnover in the NFL,” Lewis said. “Every year, you’re in training camp with eight running backs, so it doesn’t matter who the names are or who they bring in. You’ve only got to worry about how well you compete. You’ve gotta be ready to compete. That’s all that really matters.
“You can’t think of who they bring in and why did they bring them in. You’ve just got to compete against those guys and do the best you can and try to get yourself a role on the team.”
Lewis likely will receive playing time on early downs as a ball-carrier and on third down as a pass catcher. He’s a shiftier back than Burkhead, Gillislee and White, and can bring a change of pace to the Patriots’ offense.
The depth at running back could make the Patriots more willing to unleash Lewis, too, since the offense’s success relies less on his health. They played it safe with the undersized running back when he finally came back from a torn ACL last season, but he could take on a bigger role as a kick returner in 2017.
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