Soon after the Philadelphia Eagles traded away two of former head coach Chip Kelly's headline acquisitions, the franchise kicked out Kelly's marquee signing. Running back DeMarco Murray, who signed a 5-year, $40 million contract, has been traded to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a draft pick, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Due to Murray's massive contract, it's likely that the Titans passed along a mid- to late-round pick, so the compensation will be interesting. The Titans general manager is former Patriots staffer Jon Robinson, so you can be sure the Patriots are watching closely.
The fallout of this trade is also interesting because now there are more running backs on the market than teams know what to do with them.
|Bills||LeSean McCoy||2015 trade|
|Steelers||Le'Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams||2013 2nd, '15 contract|
|Ravens||Justin Forsett||2015 extension|
|Bengals||Giovanni Bernard, Jeremy Hill||2013 2nd, 2014 2nd|
|Browns||Duke Johnson||2015 3rd|
|Titans||DeMarco Murray, Bishop Sankey||2016 trade, 2014 2nd|
|Colts||Frank Gore||2015 contract|
|Jaguars||T.J. Yeldon||2015 2nd|
|Chiefs||Jamaal Charles||2014 extension|
|Raiders||Latavius Murray||Big 2015 season|
|Chargers||Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead||2015 1st, contract|
|Giants||Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen||2014, 2015 contracts|
|Cowboys||Darren McFadden||2015 contract|
|Eagles||Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles||2015 contracts|
|Wash||Matt Jones||2015 3rd||Alfred Morris|
|Packers||Eddie Lacy||2013 2nd|
|Lions||Ameer Abdullah||2015 2nd|
|Vikings||Adrian Peterson||2015 extension|
|Bears||Jeremy Langford||2015 4th||Matt Forte|
|Saints||Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller||2015 contracts|
|Falcons||Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman||2014 4th, 2015 3rd|
|Panthers||Jonathan Stewart||2012 extension|
|Seahawks||Thomas Rawls||Big 2015 season|
|49ers||Carlos Hyde||2014 2nd|
|Rams||Todd Gurley||2015 1st|
|Cardinals||David Johnson||2015 3rd|
26 of the 32 teams appear to have an incumbent running back, with only Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart under a contract that began prior to 2013 (Stewart signed an extension in 2012). While high draft picks are no measure of a team's commitment to a starter- the Titans selected RB Bishop Sankey as the #1 running back in the 2014 draft and just acquired Murray- recent draft investments at the position could deter a team from dipping back into the well during the draft.
All six of the teams that don't have a clear incumbent- and I'm grouping the Patriots in with the bunch due to Dion Lewis' torn ACL- almost all of them have an obvious free agent connection.
The Patriots have LeGarrette Blount, the Jets have Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, the Dolphins have Lamar Miller, the Broncos have C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, and the Buccaneers have Doug Martin. The Texans are the only team with a question mark after cutting ties with Arian Foster.
When we look towards the draft, there is one clear blue chip running back in Ezekiel Elliott and two red chip backs in Derrick Henry and Kenneth Dixon. At a draft minimum, these three players will be competing for starting roles in 2016, and they will join Foster and Bears RB Matt Forte as players without an immediate and obvious home. There are a ton of running backs that could help the Patriots.
There's a very real possibility that the Patriots could sign Blount to a veteran's minimum deal and still manage to draft Henry or Dixon at 60th overall- or if Henry and Dixon are not available, then a veteran is likely to be on the market for a lower-than-expected contract.
The New England Patriots understand that the running game was unacceptable in 2015 and they are going to do whatever they can to improve it in 2016. Don't count out a major move in such a saturated running back market.