Dion Lewis knows how these things go. He's about to become a free agent, and he knows better than most just how fragile life as an NFL running back can be.
That means that after his best season as a pro -- his first when he's been fully healthy -- it's time to cash in.
Calling in to Adam Schefter's latest podcast, Lewis emphasized the fact that he's looking to make the most of his opportunity on the open market.
That could mean sticking in New England, where he's enjoyed making his home close to his Albany roots. But it could very well mean heading elsewhere after three years with the Patriots.
"We'll see," he said. "It's a business. I love it here. I've grown great relationships in this area. The past three years have been great. I'm close to home. I can get to New York in two-and-a-half hours so I'm real close to my family. Things are perfect. But at the same time, it's a business.
"Hopefully it'll work out, but at the same time you can't always think that way. You've got to take care of yourself and your family at the same time. It'll definitely be tough. Hopefully it can work out, but at the same time I'm not putting all of my eggs in one basket. I know how the team likes to handle their business, and as a running back you've got to make the most of your opportunity. And me being the player that I am, my main thing is making sure I can go out there next year and show people the type of player I can be.
"I still think I can improve from what I did this past year so my main thing is just making sure I'm valued. That's my biggest thing. Make sure that I'm valued the way I value myself."
Lewis admitted this is "a weird time" because of the uncertainty surrounding his future, but he's thankful that he has reached this point feeling as well as he does. Knee injuries robbed him of the second half of his 2015 season and the first half of his 2016. He also suffered injuries that limited him in 2012 and forced him to miss all of 2013.
"This has really been the first year that I've actually got to play the whole season and was give opportunities the whole . . . well, most of the season," he said. "I think that when I get opportunities I'm able to show what kind of player I am."
Lewis finished the year with 180 carries for 896 yards (an average of 5.0 yards per attempt) and six rushing touchdowns. He also caught 32 passes for 214 yards and three scores. Lewis led the Patriots with 500 snaps from the running back position (including playoffs) this season, but he never played more than 18 snaps through the first five weeks. Perhaps in an effort to manage his workload -- or simply in an effort to see what a combination of Mike Gillislee and James White could do -- Lewis wasn't utilized more frequently until Week 6 against the Jets, a game in which Gillislee fumbled.
That's when Lewis seized more of a primary role and asserted himself as one of the most elusive backs in football.
"This is the best I've felt in a long time," he said. "I practiced all the OTAs, every training camp practice, I only missed one practice this season and that's the one day I was sick . . . My knees feel great, I feel great, and I just gotta keep taking care of my body. I learned a lot throughout my career, and I listen to my body more than I used to. Sometimes I pushed through things because I like to work hard, but I've learned I have to listen to my body."
If Lewis finds a hefty pay day with another club, the Patriots will likely be on the lookout for a multi-purpose back . . . and the answer may have been on the 2017 roster, occupying the locker just a few down from Lewis.
Rex Burkhead, who is also scheduled to be a free agent after playing out his one-year deal with the Patriots, could be the choice to be the do-it-all runner if Lewis is out of the mix. Injuries resulted in seven missed games (including playoffs) for Burkhead this season and could make him the more cost-effective option.
If the Patriots are interested in someone who already understands the offense and who showed that he could be effective in a variety of situations -- passing game, running game, red zone -- then Burkhead could very well end up re-signing to help fill the void should Lewis find that he's valued more highly elsewhere.
We took a look at some other backs in free agency (including Carlos Hyde, Jerick McKinnon and Frank Gore) as well as potential draft picks at the position (including USC's Ronald Jones, Georgia's Sony Michel and San Diego State's Rashaad Penny) in our Depth Chart series.