Patriots Free Agency: Five Running Backs Who Could Interest New England

With Dion Lewis seemingly out the door and Rex Burkhead also set to hit the open market Wednesday, the New England Patriots have a need at running back this offseason.

The 2018 draft class boasts a number of intriguing running back prospects, but if the Patriots — who currently have James White, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden under contract — choose to address the position through free agency, here are a few veterans they could consider:

Jerick McKinnon
If Lewis does end up leaving in free agency, the Patriots could do a lot worse than McKinnon, who is looking for a larger role after four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. A similar dual-threat talent, McKinnon fell just shy of 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season (991 on 201 touches, including 51 receptions) while splitting time with Latavius Murray in Minnesota’s resurgent backfield. The 25-year-old averaged just 3.8 yards per carry but graded out as Pro Football Focus’ eighth-best running back, three spots behind Lewis and one ahead of LeSean McCoy.

Isaiah Crowell
Crowell was a workhorse rusher and a moderately productive receiver during his four seasons with the moribund Cleveland Browns, averaging 184.3 carries per season and 4.2 yards per rush while also catching 96 total passes. He’s never missed a game in his NFL career, and like McKinnon, he’s just 25.

Doug Martin
Martin’s NFL career has followed an odd pattern, with the diminutive ball-carrier racking up 1,400-plus rushing yards in his first and fourth seasons but failing to crack 500 yards in any of his four others. Injuries partially were to blame for that — he’s played in more than 11 games just twice — but Martin averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in each of the last two seasons, ranking dead last among qualified running backs both times. All that said, many a player has revitalized his career in New England, and Martin shouldn’t cost much if the Patriots opt to take a flier on him.

Shane Vereen
Remember him? The former Patriots third-down back is coming off a modest third season with the New York Giants (45 carries, 164 yards; 44 catches, 253 yards) and likely will be looking for a new home this spring. The 29-year-old proved early in his career how productive he can be in Josh McDaniels’ offense. Could a reunion be in store? (Ex-Patriots LeGarrette Blount and Danny Woodhead also are set to hit free agency, with the Baltimore Ravens reportedly releasing the oft-injured Woodhead on Tuesday.)

Frank Gore
Gore has been a 1,000-ish-yard rusher since the Cretaceous Period, tallying 960 or more yards on the ground in 11 of the last 12 seasons. (The lone exception was an 853-yard season in 2010 when he played in just 11 games.) During his age-34 season in 2017, he carried the ball 261 times for 961 yards while also catching 29 passes for 245 yards for an Indianapolis Colts offense that ranked among the worst in the NFL. The old man still can play.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images

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