The New England Patriots have three premier free agents this offseason, with cornerback Malcolm Butler, left tackle Nate Solder, and running back Dion Lewis all considered highly desirable options.
Butler and Solder are top free agents due to the premium of their respective positions, even if they aren’t necessarily top five or top ten in the league, while Lewis is simply one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NFL- if he can stay healthy.
The Patriots are expected to try and retain Lewis, but CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora projects four teams to try and outbid New England, with an additional three that could “get involved.” I’ll add another team that should call up Lewis, too.
“As for Lewis, his ability to operate as a difference-maker out in space as well as being a powerful runner between the tackles makes him quite attractive to various teams [including the 49ers],” La Canfora writes. “New England is going to attempt to fight to keep him, from what I gather, but his price-point may far outpace what the Pats are used to spending at the running back position. The Jets, Titans and Colts are also in play for Lewis, sources said, while I can’t help but wonder if the Bucs, Browns and Raiders will get involved when the market opens this week.”
La Canfora believes the San Francisco 49ers to be one of the top teams interested in Lewis, with the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts also in contention. He also thinks the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, and Oakland Raiders could throw their hats into the ring.
The 49ers certainly have the cap space to pay Lewis and he would reunite with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and join a great head coach in Kyle Shanahan that would definitely know how to maximize his value. He would likely split time with Bilal Powell on the Jets and Derrick Henry with the Titans, so I could see the 49ers and Colts having an edge.
I would also throw in the Detroit Lions as a team that should have plenty of interest in Lewis. Detroit hasn’t fielded a 1,000-yard rusher since the Byzantine Empire and Lewis would be a dynamic player to held take some of the pressure away from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Head coach Matt Patricia is certainly aware of what Lewis brings to the table, too.
New England should be interested in keeping Lewis, but I expect him to be outside of their price range. I would expect Rex Burkhead to be more in the team’s price range and for a player like DeMarco Murray or Jeremy Hill to make some sense, too.