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Patriots give new RB Rex Burkhead a contract for a starting running back

Burkhead is getting more money than Dion Lewis.

The New England Patriots signed former Cincinnati Bengals RB Rex Burkhead to a contract and ESPN’s Field Yates has the details. Burkhead is receiving starter money and could be the replacement for LeGarrette Blount.

Burkhead is receiving $1.1 million out of the gate as a signing bonus and has a $1.8 million base salary. He can achieve an additional $250,000 in per-game roster bonuses. His cap hit should be $3.15 million because he was active for all 16 games with the Bengals in 2016.

This is big money for the Patriots to give a running back. Last year, RB LeGarrette Blount earned $1.75 million after he reached $750,000 of incentives in addition to his $1 million base salary. RB Dion Lewis signed a 2-year, $2.6 million contract which means that Burkhead is making more in one season than Lewis will in two.

In other words, Burkhead is expected to be the Patriots top running back heading into 2017. Burkhead can run between the tackles, he can catch out of the backfield and line up at receiver, and he can contribute on special teams.

The Patriots treat the running back position different than most teams and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport notes that Burkhead “left a lot of money on the table” to join the Patriots.

It’s rare for any individual running back to exceed 2.0% of the salary cap, with players like Kevin Faulk, Corey Dillon, and Fred Taylor the only exceptions. Burkhead will account for 1.9% of the salary cap and will be the first running back since Faulk and Taylor to receive more than $2 million for a single season. For comparison, Lewis and James White will account for 1.4% of the salary cap combined.

New England will have three running backs entering their final contract year in Burkhead, Lewis, and White. It’s a slight surprise that Burkhead didn’t sign a multi-year deal with this potential departure of Lewis and White in mind.