Mike Gillislee’s five-day wait concluded at 4 p.m. ET Monday.
It was then that the restricted free agent learned he’d be a New England Patriot, with the Buffalo Bills declining to match their AFC East rival’s offer sheet and taking a fifth-round pick as compensation for Gillislee instead.
The getting-to-know process has been underway for some time with Gillislee. The running back’s name was discussed well before he visited Gillette Stadium in early April. His numbers were, too.
But let’s unpack some for good measure as Gillislee’s Patriots tenure gets underway.
Let’s play the numbers game.
During his senior season at Florida, Gillislee was Gators teammates with five future Patriots in quarterback Jacoby Brissett, guard Jon Halapio, offensive tackle Ian Silberman, defensive tackle Dominique Easley and linebacker Jon Bostic. Gillislee rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns during that 2012 campaign.
Thirteen running backs were picked ahead of Gillislee in the 2013 NFL draft. That list featured Giovani Bernard, Le’Veon Bell, Montee Ball, Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael, Knile Davis, Johnathan Franklin, Marcus Lattimore, Denard Robinson, Stepfan Taylor, Joseph Randle, Chris Thompson and Zac Stacy. Gillislee had his name called in the fifth round by the Miami Dolphins at No. 164 overall.
Gillislee earned six carries through his first two seasons in the league. Now, he’s slated to earn $6.4 million over his next two. Gillislee appeared in three games as a rookie with the Dolphins and was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of 2014.
After a month-long stop on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad to begin the 2015 season, Gillislee joined Buffalo’s and was promoted to the active roster that December. He went on to score a total of 12 touchdowns for the Bills during his 20-game stay.
No back beat Gillislee’s 5.7 yards per carry in 2016. Among those with at least 50 carries during the 2016 season, Gillislee ranked first and his then-Bills teammate, LeSean McCoy, ranked third. Gillislee finished the year with 577 rushing yards on 101 attempts.
The Patriots were no stranger to Gillislee’s efficiency this past season. In his two games against his new club, Gillislee averaged 6.39 yards per carry, accumulating 115 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Gillislee broke seven of his runs for 20-plus yards in 2016. That placed him in a tie for sixth in the league. LeGarrette Blount, who amassed 198 more carries for New England while notching his second career 1,000-yard season and setting the franchise record in rushing touchdowns, was among eight backs tied with Gillislee in the 20-plus category.
While power, speed and agility will get you on the field, a lack of ball security will quickly take you off of it. But that hasn’t been much of an issue for the 5-foot-11, 219-pound Gillislee thus far into his NFL sample size. Over his 170 career touches – 154 carries, 15 catches, one kick return – he’s put the ball on the ground twice. That averages out to one fumble per 85 touches. Only one of which was recovered by the defense.
Set to turn 27 in November, Gillislee checks in as the third-youngest member of the Patriots’ backfield depth chart behind 25-year-old James White and 23-year-old D.J. Foster. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are also 26 years of age, and the longest-tenured member of the group, Brandon Bolden, turned 27 in January.
Four ex-Bills resided on the Patriots’ roster before Gillislee formally joined them Monday afternoon. There’s fullback Glenn Gronkowski, wide receiver Chris Hogan, defensive tackle Alan Branch and also cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who signed soon after the new league year opened on March 9. Needless to say, Buffalo is well-represented in Foxborough.