The New England Patriots have one less pressing need on offense after they reportedly brought back running back Rex Burkhead on a three-year deal.
The Burkhead deal was first reported by The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride. The length of the contract was reported by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
With Dion Lewis headed to the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots had just James White, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden on their running back depth chart. Burkhead immediately slots in as the Patriots’ starter for 2018 and possibly beyond.
Burkhead has the versatility to play as an early-down runner and on third down as a pass catcher. He also can be used as a short-yardage back and on special teams. He’s by far the Patriots’ most versatile running back, and he adds unpredictability on offense when he’s on the field.
White is limited to pass-catching duties, while Gillislee had just one catch on one target with the Patriots in 2017. Burkhead carried the ball 64 times for 264 yards with five touchdowns and had 30 catches on 36 targets for 254 yards with three more scores last season. Rib and knee injuries limited him to just 10 games, however.
The Patriots should still look to add another running back either through free agency or the draft to compete with Gillislee and Bolden. The Patriots still could decide Gillislee isn’t worth his $2.2 million cap hit in 2018. Some potential names on the open market who could interest the Patriots are Doug Martin, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount.
Since Burkhead is so versatile, the Patriots can look at a big back or a sub back to fill out their training camp depth.
After losing Lewis, re-signing Burkhead was necessary for the Patriots. The Patriots lost Lewis, Malcolm Butler, Nate Solder and Danny Amendola in free agency. Burkhead is the most high-profile free agent they’ve brought back this offseason.