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RB LeGarrette Blount and Patriots have mutual interest in a return for 2017

Was the Adrian Peterson visit a nudge to get the ball rolling?

The New England Patriots held a visit with former Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson on Monday and the two sides parted without a contract in place.

Perhaps the Patriots used the meeting as an opportunity to get the ball rolling on a potential contract with RB LeGarrette Blount, because a pair of NFL Network reporters point to a mutual interest in a return for 2017.

Blount has effectively played on multiple 1-year deals with the Patriots. New England acquired him during the 2013 draft and restructured his contract to a 1-year, $680,000 deal. Blount earned a 2-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but returned to the Patriots halfway through the 2014 season on a deal that would finish out 2014 and extend through 2015. Then the Patriots signed Blount to a 1-year deal for the 2016 season.

In other words, Blount has signed three contracts with the Patriots for 3.5 years of service. If he wants a fourth year in New England, he’ll likely have to sign another 1-year pact- and the Patriots meeting with Peterson might have been a leverage play to force Blount to make his decision before the draft.

“I think that certainly would make some sense,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport replied. “I know LeGarrette Blount would like to return to the Patriots, I know the Patriots would like him back. But at this point, the salary has not been more than some of the other running backs on the roster already make, especially some of the newly acquired ones in Rex Burkhead, so they’re just not there yet as far as getting LeGarrette Blount back in the fold for the Patriots. Maybe this spurs things along, or maybe he’s able to get a visit somewhere that will let the Patriots know that he has other suitors.”

The Patriots are comfortable heading into 2017 with or without Blount after signing former Cincinnati Bengals RB Rex Burkhead to a 1-year, $3.15 million deal. For context, the Patriots have paid Blount roughly $3.64 million for his 3.5 seasons, which shows how much more highly the Patriots think of Burkhead’s ability than they do of Blount’s.

In Blount’s favor, Rapoport also highlighted that Blount only has 1,279 rushes in his seven season career (regular and postseason), a very low number for his 30-year old age. In fact, Blount ranks 111th in NFL history in carries by his 30th birthday- and there are plenty of younger players that are going to push him further down the list in the coming years.

A fellow NFL Network reporter added some context on the Patriots thought process and how they approached Blount’s contract in free agency.

“And as for Blount, at the beginning of the free agency period,” NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo added, “all indications were the Patriots were saying ‘Well, if this guy gets anything remotely solid anywhere else, he’s out of there.’ So now you’re at the point where it’s clear that he’s not getting anything solid, so anything you can do to say, ‘If you come back to us, remember this is a place where you’ve had some success,’ they’re going to want him on the cheap obviously and he’s going to have to work his way into that backfield and take on that role that he’s had before, maybe even a smaller role now that Burkhead is there as well, but all indications were that they weren’t going to be chasing LeGarrette Blount anywhere.”

It would seem like the Patriots thought that Blount would have more of a market than actually appeared, especially after Blount led the league in rushing touchdowns. The Patriots made a move on Burkhead with that projected departure in mind, but now the team is able to reevaluate and can consider the potential of bringing Blount back on another small contract.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens. Blount signed his 2016 contract on April 12th. Don’t be surprised if we find where Blount will play in 2017 over the next week or two.