One of the most notable names on the New England Patriots' list of free agents is running back Dion Lewis. The 27-year old was the team's number one running back last season and gained a combined 1,031 yards on the ground while appearing in all 19 of New England's games. Lewis also served as a prolific pass catcher as well as kick returner and as a result finished the year ranked sixth league-wide in all-purpose yards.
Naturally, a player of this caliber will attract plenty of suitors in free agency. The Patriots are reportedly also among the teams expected to fight for the running back's services (according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe):
The Patriots have expressed interest in re-signing Dion Lewis, but most of the league is interested, too, according to a source. Pats will have to make a strong offer to keep him. Lewis might get offers as high as 3 years, $18 million.
Based on per-year numbers, the deal outlined by Howe would make Lewis one of the highest-paid backs in all of football. There is little doubt that he is one of the most electric players in the game but durability has been a concern in the past: Lewis played all of his team's games in just one of his seven career seasons. Still, when healthy, he is capable of being a game-changer on offense and special teams – and therefore unquestionably worth a lot.
It will be interesting which value the Patriots, who know him better than any other team, will place on him, especially considering that fellow running back Rex Burkhead is entering free agency as well. Don't be surprised if only one of the two returns to New England next season – with Lewis potentially emerging as the top choice.