Today, the NFL offseason entered its next phase: The two-month window of free agency compensation closed, meaning that unrestricted free agents will no longer be able to net their former clubs additional draft picks in case they leave via the open market.
One of the players effected by this would have been running back LeGarrette Blount, who remains unsigned despite leading the league in touchdowns last season. “Would” because of a move his employer for most of the last four years, the New England Patriots, made yesterday.
According to a report by the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, New England placed a rarely used one-year tender on the veteran:
The Patriots extended a seldom-used tender to LeGarrette Blount yesterday, per source, to protect their compensatory pick if he leaves.
Blount's tender is for one year and $1.1M, and all bonuses carry over from 2016. Pats can match offer from other teams or recoup comp pick.
Blount has no plans to sign the Pats' tender at the moment. But once training camp opens, he can only negotiate with Pats. Tough spot.
Extending the tender is as smart a move as you will ever see a front office make, not only because how hardly it is used. The sheet also puts New England in a very good position to either keep Blount at a relatively modest price or see him become part of the compensatory formula after all.
The tender sets a definite deadline for Blount to either leave or stay in Foxboro: July 22. If the 30-year old does not sign elsewhere prior to that day, the Patriots receive exclusive negotiating rights. Consequently, Blount either plays in New England on a one-year deal worth a maximum of $2.0 million or does not play during the 2017 season at all.
However, if Blount signs with another team prior to July 22, his contract and playing time will become a part of the 2018 compensatory draft pick formula. Naturally, this puts the veteran running back at a disadvantage as other teams might shy away from signing him now that he will count against the formula.
Even if Blount returns to the Patriots – a move that becomes more likely due to the tender –, his roster spot is far from guaranteed. After all, the team has invested heavily into the running back position over the course of the offseason by acquiring Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to join a returning group of James White and Dion Lewis.