At the cost of a 5th round pick, the Patriots could wind up with a solid young RB who has given the team problems in the past. The Bills gave RB Mike Gillislee the original round tender, which means signing him away would cost the Patriots the 163rd pick in the draft. The Patriots trade 5th round picks for bottom of the roster players, so it’s hardly a deterrent for the Patriots to sign Gillislee to an offer sheet. Doing so accomplishes two things: they either get the player and give Buffalo the 5th round pick or they drive up his cap number from $1.797M and make things more difficult for the Bills to compete for a Wild Card slot.
The Patriots do have a FA and draft need at the RB position, especially a guy who can carry the rock between the tackles. The Patriots last year relied on LeGarrette Blount, who signed an incentive-laden deal and broke the franchise record for TDs and established a personal best in yards and carries. At the end of the season, Blount looked a lot slower and worn down, which is concerning with him being on the wrong side of 30. The Patriots have two solid pass catchers in Dion Lewis and James White, but both guys aren’t going to run the ball more than 15 times a game.
Gillislee is probably also looking for a larger role, he’s had only 165 career carries in two seasons. He’s been incredibly efficient with a career mark of 5.6 over his career and was 5.7 for the 2016 season on 101 carries. At 26 years old and not very many carries compared to most RBs 4 years removed from college, Gillislee does not have a lot of wear and has plenty in the tank. Against the Patriots, he had 18 carries for 115 yards and 1 TD. In the Patriots 41-25 Week 8 win, Gillislee put up 12 carries for 85 yards and a TD with a sidelined Le’Sean McCoy. The most number of carries he’s had in a single game was 15 against the Jets in Week 17. He’ll be averaging more than 15 attempts per game if he ends up in New England this Spring.
The Patriots at the minimum should entertain the idea of signing Gillislee to an offer sheet. The team once again is in a position to make things tougher for a division rival who clearly struggles to evaluate their young players. At the cost of a 5th round pick, the Patriots could wind up signing a RB with very little wear and plenty in the tank. I still think the Patriots could draft a RB on Day 2 should the right guy be available with Lewis and White’s impending free agency after the season. The team has until April 21 to sign Gillislee to an offer sheet.