Whereas fellow 2018 first-round draft choice Isaiah Wynn saw his fifth-year contract option exercised by the New England Patriots on Monday, running back Sony Michel will not be under contract beyond the upcoming season. The Patriots officially declined to trigger the fifth year of his rookie deal, meaning that he is now scheduled to enter free agency in 2022.
Michel originally arrived in New England as the 31st selection of the 2018 draft, and quickly made an impact on the team’s offense. Serving as the team’s early-down and short-yardage back, he picked up 931 yards on the ground during his rookie regular season and followed it up with one of the best rushing performances in NFL playoff history.
Running behind a dominant offensive line, Michel gained 336 yards and six touchdowns — playing a crucial role in New England winning the Super Bowl that year. In fact, Michel scored the only touchdown of the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
While he entered his second season in the league with plenty of momentum, Michel failed to make the famous second-year jump and build on what at times had been an encouraging first season campaign as a pro. The Georgia product was able to appear in all 17 games and finished the year with a combined 973 rushing yards and seven scores, but he did not prove himself to be a difference maker for an offense in dire need of just that.
What followed was a 2020 season that was a microcosm of Michel’s career so far. He appeared in just nine games because of injury, but still gained 449 yards on his 79 carries while leading the team with a an average of 5.7 yards per rush. However, he had to take a backseat to second-year man Damien Harris all year.
With Harris seemingly set as the starter in the early-down role, and with the team just drafting Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round this weekend, the Patriots had no real incentive to add the fifth option year to Michel’s deal at a fully-guaranteed $4.52 million. As a result, he will be playing on the final year of his rookie pact in 2021.
Michel thus become one of nine players who have seen their options declined by their respective clubs.
The others are linebackers Leighton Vander Esch (Dallas Cowboys) and Rashaan Evans (Tennessee Titans), center Billy Price (Cincinnati Bengals), tight end Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons via Baltimore Ravens), running back Rashaad Penny (Seattle Seahawks), defensive tackle Taven Bryan (Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive backs Terrell Edmunds (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Mike Hughes (Minnesota Vikings). One other player — quarterback Josh Rosen — was not been eligible after getting cut before his rookie deal was up.