Patriots release running back Tyler Gaffney

Patriots release running back Tyler Gaffney

The Patriots have decided to part ways with one of the running backs who may have been in competition for time as one of the team's "big backs" in 2017.

The team announced on Monday that it had released Tyler Gaffney, who had been with the Patriots off and on since 2014. The 6-foot, 220-pound running back spent most of last season on the Patriots practice squad, joining that 10-man unit in October and starting a second stint in November that lasted for the remainder of the season. 

Gaffney was originally picked up by the Patriots after he was waived by the Panthers following a season-ending injury in training camp in 2014. He came back to the Patriots in 2015 but suffered another season-ending injury in training camp that summer. Back again in 2016, he was released during final cuts last but came back to work on the practice squad on Oct. 17. 

During the season, coach Bill Belichick praised Gaffney's work as a vital member of what's commonly referred to as the "look squad."

"He’s done a good job for us . . . Sometimes it’s a ball-security thing we talk to him about like ‘This back kind of swings the ball around a little bit,’ and even though he shouldn’t do that," Belichick said in December, "he’ll do it to kind of help our defense prepare for it.

"Or, ‘This is the way [an opposing running back] runs a certain type of route.’ Again, there are a lot of little things. And [his teammates] do a good job with him, too. The linebackers – they’ll say ‘Hey, he’ll cheat on this,’ or ‘He’ll cheat on that when he’s got protection or a certain route. He lines up deeper on certain plays or closer to the line on certain plays,’ just as we go through the week to sort of help each other there.

"But yeah, he does a great job. Tyler – he’s a smart guy, very team-orientated. If you ask him to do something he’s going to give you a great look. There’s nobody that takes more punches than he does. He must get punched in the stomach 10 times a day. The defense is trying to take the ball out. That’s his role. That’s his job. But they’re slapping at the ball, they’re pulling at it, they’re trying to punch it, half the time they miss. He does a great job."

Gaffney's release in mid-March, about a week-and-a-half into the league's free agency period, gives the fourth-year player an opportunity to latch on with another team as clubs around the league build their rosters.

Gaffney has never had a regular-season carry, but he had an impressive preseason in 2016 as he ran 35 times in four games for 152 yards (115 of which came after contact) and one touchdown.

Had he remained on the roster this summer, Gaffney likely would have competed with Rex Burkhead for snaps as the team's "big back." But Burkhead, who signed a deal with New England for one year and $3.15 million, would have had a relatively clear upper-hand in any competition given the financial commitment the Patriots were willing to give him. 

Burkhead, who checks in at 210 pounds, is currently the only player on the roster who would qualify as a contender for the role that has been vacated by free-agent LeGarrette Blount. Special-teamer and hard-charding runner Brandon Bolden is also on the market looking for his next deal. Dion Lewis, James White and DJ Foster round out the depth chart at the position.

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...