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Patriots host outstanding Bills restricted free agent running back for a visit

Bills RB Mike Gillislee is outstanding and would be an excellent fit.

The New England Patriots hosted Buffalo Bills restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee on a visit, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, a meeting with multiple potential fall outs.

The 5’11, 208 pound Gillislee runs a 4.55s 40 yard dash, but his production on the field greatly outstrips his athletic measurements. Over the past two seasons in Buffalo, Gillislee has carried the ball 148 times for 844 yards (a ridiculous 5.70 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. He added 15 receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Gillislee rates as the #1 running back in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings with a 45.0%, one place ahead of running back Rex Burkhead at 41.9%.

Gillislee had plenty of success against the Patriots in 2016, carrying the ball 18 times for 115 yards (6.39 YPC) and a touchdown, while adding 4 receptions on 5 targets for 22 yards.

“A strong, downhill runner,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Gillislee. “One-cut guy that's hard to tackle, good complimentary player to McCoy.”

Gillislee started his career with the Miami Dolphins and has three seasons in the NFL, making him a restricted free agent. The Buffalo Bills slapped an original round tender (priced at $1.797 million) on Gillislee, meaning that if any team gives Gillislee an offer that the Bills don’t match, then the bidding team would have to give Buffalo a fifth round pick.

Pats Pulpit’s Michael McDermott suggested that the Patriots should try to swipe Gillislee away from the Bills at the start of free agency and that the 5th round price would be a bargain.

Now some might wonder how the Patriots could perform this transaction. Remember with restricted free agent CB Malcolm Butler under the first round tender, the New Orleans Saints would have to give up their original 11th overall pick, despite also owning the 32nd overall pick.

The Patriots traded their fifth round pick to the Cleveland Browns for LB Barkevious Mingo; so how can they take Gillislee from the Bills? The collective bargaining agreement explains.

“Any Club that does not have available, in the upcoming Draft, the selection choice or choices (its own or better choices in the applicable rounds) needed to provide Draft Choice Compensation in the event of a timely First Refusal Exercise Notice may not sign an Offer Sheet in such circumstances.”

In other words, the Patriots acquisition of the Denver Broncos fifth round pick from trading TE A.J. Derby allows the Patriots to make an offer to Gillislee. Because the Broncos selection is before the Patriots original fifth round selection, the Patriots can make offers to players under the fifth round tender.

The Patriots could give up a fifth round pick for one of the best runners in the NFL and would likely extend a multi-year contract, resolving the Patriots future hole at the position as almost every running back is up for free agency. The signing would weaken a division rival, while also give the Patriots a young and strong runner with versatility and upside.

This visit is a clear notice to LeGarrette Blount that he needs to take the offer on the table, or the Patriots will have no qualms moving in a different direction. We’ll see if this visit spurs any action with Blount- or if the Patriots are already moving from Blount and will sign Gillislee to an offer sheet.