It wasn’t long ago that the hot name on the many training camp-cut lists was Dion Lewis. It was a narrative that gained traction following the Patriots’ offseason signings of Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee — and the extension of shifty pass-catching threat James White didn’t bode well for Dion either.
Yet, fast forward just a few months, and the third-year Patriot has found himself with a majority stake in the offense’s carry-share over the past three weeks — racking up 191 yards on 34 touches and adding a touchdown.
To many, the former University of Pittsburgh standout and 2011 fifth-round draft pick has shown no signs of apprehension while running and making cuts this season — something he didn’t display oftern in 2016 after his recovery from a season-ending knee injury the year prior spilled well into the regular season. Nonetheless, Lewis totaled 489 yards from scrimmage on 111 touches and three touchdowns in 10 games (seven regular season and three playoff) last season, and proved critical down the stretch as bruiser LeGarrette Blount began slowing down.
However, Dion isn’t just showing a lack of apprehension this year — he’s reminding New England fans and media of the kind of player they saw prior to that devastating ACL tear two seasons ago — a player whose teammates gave the moniker of “Jitter Bug”.
After stealing training camp headlines all summer in 2015, Dion Lewis promptly exploded onto the scene in the regular season. He accumulated 622 yards from scrimmage on 85 touches (49 carries, 36 catches) — 7.31 yards per touch — and four touchdowns through the Patriots’ first five and a half games, breaking opponents’ ankles with his agility and consistently making defenders pay for taking poor angles. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels schemed personnel packages and formations specifically around getting him the football.
As a member of the Patriots, Dion Lewis has averaged 5.87 yards from scrimmage per touch, he has shown the ability to pick up blitzes in pass protection, and provided stability in the kick return game — albeit a role of diminished importance given the the passage of NFL new rules.
Currently, the Patriots have two running backs under contract past the 2017 season: James White and Mike Gillislee — the latter of which has no guaranteed money remaining on his deal, and is set to earn $1.95 million in cash next year.
If the team plans to continue utilizing Dion at the current capacity, and he continues to relegate Gillislee further into a snap-share with the now healthy Rex Burkhead, then there is certainly no reason to believe that the team wouldn’t look to reward Lewis’ contributions, alleviate some of his injury risk, and include him in their plans beyond 2017.
So what kind of deal should we expect?
Upon completion of his current deal, which was signed in early October, 2015, Lewis will end up earning $3,278,740 as a Patriot — provided he is active for the next eight games and hits none of his incentives for percentage of offensive snaps played this season. His colleague James White — a younger player with a different role and skill set — signed a $12M deal this offseason that kept him in the Patriots organization through 2020, and included $4.69M in guarantees.
Lewis turned 27-years-old on September 27th, so a two-year extension through the end of the 2019 season would be completed prior to the Brooklyn,NY native’s age-30 season. Of course, from the team’s perspective, the major concern in any deal involving Lewis is the health risk. So here’s the proposal.
This two-year extension would total $5.8M in new money for Lewis, with $1.2M of it guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. The Patriots currently have close to $4.7M in 2017 cap space, so a new $400,000 signing bonus proration can easy be absorbed on this year’s books, decreasing potential future dead money. Lewis’ 2018 cap figure would be $2.2M, and his 2019 figure would be $2.4M
It’s a pretty straight forward deal that says Hey Dion, we’re glad you’re back to your old self, so keep up the good work down the stretch this year, and we want you around for a bit afterwards — while remaining flexible and protecting the team from injury and decline.
With the bye week on the horizon, what better time than now to get a deal done with a fan favorite?