In the third part of a five-part series, Phil Perry and DJ Bean take a look at potential free agents New England might have interest in. Today: running backs.
It'd be hard for a season to break better for Patriots running backs than last year's did. They had their big back in LeGarrette Blount, who put together a career year and ran for a franchise record 18 touchdowns. They had their sub back in James White, who showed reliable hands throughout the season and came through with the game of his life in Super Bowl LI. All-purpose dynamo Dion Lewis spent most of the year on the physically unable to perform list, but he came back to give the offense an added dimension and dominated in the Divisional Round win over the Texans. All roles were filled. All were healthy when it mattered. Two of the three will be under contract for 2017, with Blount expected to attract plenty of suitors once the legal tampering period begins on Tuesday. DJ Foster will also be on the roster next season after what was essentially a red-shirt rookie campaign. Brandon Bolden, a core special-teamer, is scheduled to hit free agency. Blount is the wild card here, and if he takes a big-money deal elsewhere -- though the 250-pounder's preference is to remain with the Patriots -- Bill Belichick will be looking for another bruiser either in the draft or free agency.
Adrian Peterson, 31, Vikings: On the wrong side of 30. Played in 20 games in the last three seasons. Played in three games last season, when he averaged 1.9 yards per carry. One year removed from 4.5 yards per carry and a rushing title. Would have to take the big-back role in New England and be OK with a) a significant pay cut, and b) standing on the sidelines whenever the plan is to have Tom Brady throw 50 passes.
Jamaal Charles, 30, Chiefs: Perhaps the most dynamic all-purpose back in the league when healthy, one would think Charles will have to show his next employer that he can remain healthy before he secures any kind of multi-year mega-bucks deal.
Eddie Lacy, 26, Packers: Lacy has a frame that would allow him to take on the big-back role in New England, but it's been difficult to predict exactly what that frame will look like from year to year. He played in just five games last season before undergoing season-ending ankle surgery but averaged 5.1 yards per attempt on 71 carries. Prior to that, he missed just two games in three years.
Latavius Murray, 27, Raiders: Not a bad option for teams looking for a runner with a little less wear on his tires. The 225-pounder has enough power to serve in a big-back role, but he's been used in Oakland's potent passing game as well, seeing 53 and 43 targets in each of the last two seasons.
Danny Woodhead, 32, Chargers: Devastating leg injuries limited Woodhead to three games in 2014 and two games last season, but might he be healthy enough to provide the Patriots with some measure of Dion Lewis insurance at an affordable cost?
Christine Michael, 26, Packers: A violent runner who has bounced on and off of five different clubs in four seasons -- including two stints with the Seahawks and a cup of coffee with the Redskins practice squad -- Michael (5-foot-10, 220 pounds) is built more like BenJarvus Green-Ellis than Blount.