Patriots Free Agents: Why Re-Signing Brandon Bolden Isn’t Obvious Choice

Bolden is coming off a career season

by

February 23

The New England Patriots have nearly 20 players set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 16. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one. Next up: running back Brandon Bolden.

2021 SEASON REVIEW
Bolden enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2021, admirably filling in for James White after the veteran back went down with a season-ending hip injury. Bolden, who also did his usual thing on special teams, racked up 405 receiving yards, good for eighth-most among all running backs.

The 32-year-old added 226 yards on the ground and finished with three overall touchdowns while providing invaluable leadership in one of the NFL’s top running back rooms.

And yet, despite what likely will be a reasonable price in free agency, Bolden is no sure bet for a New England return.

Ultimately, it’s hard to envision Bolden and the Patriots not eventually working something out. The 2012 undrafted free agent spent the first six seasons of his career in New England before joining the Dolphins in 2018. Bolden spent one year in Miami, returning to the Patriots during the ensuing offseason.

He’s a favorite of Bill Belichick and a “Patriot Way” prototype. Bolden does whatever’s asked of him, and usually at a high level. There’s real value in that.

With that said, let’s look at cases for and against the Patriots re-signing Bolden this offseason.

CASE FOR RE-SIGNING
Bolden further proved his on- and off-field worth this season. He’s one of the best leaders on the Patriots and is a good football player.

Lead back Damien Harris has battled injuries during his young career, and J.J. Taylor has yet to emerge as a reliable passing-down back. Keeping Bolden in the fold for at least one more season would be wise given the unpredictability of the running back position. Plus, Bolden is a very good special teams player, and the Patriots must improve in that area next season.

If Bolden’s asking price isn’t outrageous, New England should bring him back on a short-term, team-friendly deal.

CASE AGAINST RE-SIGNING
At a certain point, the Patriots must stop paying so much money for special teams-only players.

Assuming White, who is a free agent this offseason, doesn’t return to his old form next season, the Patriots should see what they have in Taylor, who’s a far more explosive talent than Bolden. It would make little sense to spend another year of healthy-scratching Taylor all season while rolling with an aging Bolden as the primary passing-down back. Taylor has the ability to be Dion Lewis 2.0, if not better.

If the Patriots go that route, they should let Bolden find work elsewhere.

Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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