UPDATE (6:25 p.m. ET): The New England Patriots announced Tuesday afternoon they had signed former Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenjon Barner, confirming an earlier report.
ORIGINAL STORY: The New England Patriots are expected to complete their free-agent shopping spree Tuesday by signing running back Kenjon Barner, according to a report from ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss.
Barner, who spent the last three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, helps the Patriots on two fronts: 1) He adds depth in the backfield following Jeremy Hill’s season-ending ACL tear, and 2) he gives New England a capable punt returner.
The punt return spot had been a question mark for the Patriots after they waived wide receiver Riley McCarron on Monday.
Buried behind Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement on the Eagles’ depth chart last season, Barner carried the ball just 16 times for 57 yards and one touchdown and caught five passes for 56 yards. The 28-year-old was Philadelphia’s primary return man, though, averaging 8.9 yards per return on 27 punt returns and 19.4 yards per return on 10 kick returns.
After his Eagles contract expired this spring, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Barner spent the summer with the Carolina Panthers, who initially drafted him in the sixth round out of Oregon back in 2013. He worked out for the Patriots last week after being released Aug. 31.
Barner likely will begin behind Rex Burkhead, James White and rookie Sony Michel in the Patriots’ running back hierarchy, assuming Michel is healthy enough to play after missing the preseason and Week 1 with a knee injury.
The Patriots, who will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday in an AFC Championship Game rematch, also signed wide receivers Corey Coleman and Bennie Fowler on Monday.
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