Over the course of the last two months, the New England Patriots have radically overhauled their running back depth chart. The team signed unrestricted free agent Rex Burkhead to a one-year, $3.15 million contract, while essentially trading a fifth round draft pick for the Buffalo Bills' Mike Gillislee.
The defending world champions also handed out a three-year contract extension to Super Bowl hero James White, while 2016's workhorse LeGarrette Blount remains unsigned. And while it seems New England's position depth chart is thus set, the team is not done looking at running backs.
Just yesterday New England did just that, according to ESPN's Field Yates, when it hosted free agent Christine Michael:
Source: former Packers & Seahawks RB Christine Michael visited the Patriots yesterday. Busy RB offseason in New England.
Michael originally entered the NFL in 2013 as a second round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks, with whom he spent the first two years of his career. After a one year stint with both the Dallas Cowboys and on the Washington Redskins’ practice squad, the Texas A&M product returned to the team that drafted him in late in 2015.
His second stint with the Seahawks ended midway through the 2016 season, when Michael was released and claimed off waivers by the Green Bay Packers. But while he re-signed in Green Bay during the ensuing offseason, the team released the 26-year old last week.
Over the first two years of his career, Michael has mostly been used as a one-dimensional early-down runner. 2016 was different, though: Not only did he register 148 carries for 583 yards and the first seven rushing touchdowns of his professional career, he also caught a career-high 22 passes for 107 yards and a score.
Still, despite 2016 being Michael’s most productive year in the NFL, he does not appear to be a direct threat to one of the Patriots’ top running backs if signed. With Burkhead, Gillislee and White locks to make the team, Michael would have to fight off Dion Lewis and D.J. Foster – both significantly better pass catchers – to make the team. Needless to say, the chances of that happening do not look good.
But while he might not be an upgrade over any of the running backs currently under contract, Michael might provide something else: security. Despite New England being deep at the position, having another player ready to come in if called upon is never a wrong tactic. Thus, his visit could serve the purpose of simply updating his file and finding out whether or not he is worthy of being the next man up if needed.