All has appeared quiet on the LeGarrette Blount front. But there’s reason to think fellow free-agent running back Adrian Peterson’s recent stop by Gillette Stadium could give way to some movement regarding the New England Patriots’ top in-house option left unaccounted for.
Peterson’s Monday visit, which concluded without an offer yet included a workout, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, may have been as much about due diligence as it was leverage.
Whether that leverage will help Blount draw visits elsewhere remains to be seen. The same is also true of whether it will culminate in him revisiting the Patriots in the coming days or even weeks. But it’s clear the 6-foot, 250-pound back and the organization have each other’s numbers – literally and figuratively.
It was a different year and a different circumstance for Blount and the Patriots in the spring of 2016. It does, however, bear noting that Blount did not re-sign with New England until April 12 – a little more than a month into the new league year.
At the time, the offseason depth chart was rounded out by the likes of Donald Brown, Tyler Gaffney and Joey Iosefa under primary receiving back James White, core special-teamer Brandon Bolden and a rehabbing Dion Lewis. And at the time, Blount was coming off a campaign that ended on injured reserve after 12 games, 165 carries, 703 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns as a result of a hip injury.
He ultimately remained in the fold on one-year pact with $760,000 in base salary.
The veteran-minimum deal was of the prove-it variety, with New England offering a $100,000 signing bonus, a $40,000 workout bonus and a total of $100,000 in per-game roster bonuses. And while Brown, Gaffney and Iosefa did not go on to play a regular-season down in 2016, Blount went on to play 527.
Blount appeared every game for New England while tallying a career-high 299 carries for 1,161 yards and the most rushing touchdowns in franchise history – 18 – which eclipsed Hall of Famer Curtis Martin’s record of 14 set in both 1995 and 1996. Along the way, he became the first Patriots 1,000-yard rusher since Stevan Ridley in 2012.
Although down the stretch, Blount’s effectiveness tapered off and made multipurpose threats in White and Lewis all the more integral to New England’s offense.
The veteran big back averaged 2.8 yards per carry through the last six contests – including postseason – as the Patriots faced the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons. But Blount’s agile-yet-powerful skillset was still relied on to contrast the rest of the backfield. He garnered an average of 14 attempts per contest over that final six-game span, crossing into the end zone five times en route to earning his second Super Bowl ring in three years.
Since then, the market for No. 29 hasn’t been what some perceived it to be. He’d likely be gone by now if it were.
On the surface, that figures to play into the Patriots’ favor. The offense is one that Blount has a track record in. And it’s also one he worked his way back to after his two-year, $3.85 million opportunity with the Steelers closed only 11 games into 2014.
A quick hurdling of Jonas Gray’s role transpired thenceforth.
But should Blount, who turned 30 in December, return for a fifth season in Foxborough, he would be the seventh-oldest player on the Patriots’ roster. At a position known for its short shelf life, he checks in four years older than any other rusher in the committee, one that now includes former Cincinnati Bengal Rex Burkhead, who penned a one-year contract worth up to $3.15 million less than a week into unrestricted free agency.
Burkhead’s arrival does not preclude Blount from returning. It doesn’t necessarily signify a changing of the guard. Even so, his arrival comes with a limited sample size and starter’s money – the most given to a Patriots rusher since Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk in 2010, as the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels noted.
Blount is right to feel he deserves to be paid at that level, too. He’s logged 53 percent of the carries, 56 percent of the rushing yards, and 72 percent of the rushing touchdowns recorded by New England since 2015.
But with the weeks passing, and the NFL draft looming, it is much of the same. It is a waiting game reminiscent of last year’s.
Only the depth chart stands stronger.