The New England Patriots have decided to part ways with running back Sony Michel, trading him to the Los Angeles Rams in return for two conditional late-round draft picks. The move ends Michel’s run with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2018, and shakes up one of the deepest position groups on the roster.
But what exactly does the trade mean for the Patriots? Glad you asked!
New England still has a deep running back group
Despite Sony Michel no longer being part of the equation, the Patriots have strong depth at the running back position. Excluding fullback Jakob Johnson, the backfield now consists of the following players:
Damien Harris: The third-year man already served as New England’s lead back in 2020. With Michel now a Ram, he is expected to continue seeing most of the early-down action.
James White: After returning to the Patriots on a one-year free agency deal, White’s role will look like it did in the past: he will be New England’s primary receiving back and on the field for up-tempo and obvious passing situations.
J.J. Taylor: A former undrafted free agent, Taylor is heading into his second year in the system. The Patriots’ leader in all-purpose yards two games into preseason, he offers depth as both a runner and a receiver — possibly helping fill the role previously held by free agency departee Rex Burkhead.
Rhamondre Stevenson: The Patriots selected Stevenson in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and he had to be considered a lock to make the roster even before the Michel trade. What changes now is that he might not be redshirted now and could see some regular action early on in his career.
Brandon Bolden: The elder statesman in the running back room, Bolden will serve as depth on offense and as a core special teamer. His role on the roster is not set in stone, though, given that he missed both preseason games so far.
As can be seen, New England still has plenty of talent on its running back roster even after Michel was sent to Los Angeles. Harris will likely take over the bulk of Michel’s responsibilities on early downs, but Taylor and Stevenson are both players to watch as well: the two now have an opportunity to earn regular playing time — something that was not a given before the move.
The Patriots create slightly under $900,000 in salary cap space
Playing on the final year of the rookie contract he signed in 2018, Michel had limited guarantees left in his deal. In fact, only his remaining signing bonus proration of $1.27 million will remain on the books as dead money.
While that is a hefty sum of money, New England was still able to create additional cap space by moving Michel. His $1.79 million salary is now headed to Los Angeles, after all, which in turn leads to cap savings of $867,582: his signing bonus proration stays, his salary goes, and Byron Cowart and his $925,149 cap number takes his place on the Top-51 list.
New England now owns at least eight selections in the 2022 draft
The conditions of the Patriots’ trade with L.A. leave two possible outcomes. Either the Rams earn a fourth-round compensatory selection next year that would then move to New England, or they would have to send two picks — one in the fifth and one in the sixth round — to Michel’s old club.
While that remains to be seen, we already know that Bill Belichick and company will have at least eight selections to work with in 2022. They look as follows, with the expectation being that New England will indeed earn that fourth-rounder:
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
- Round 4
- Round 4 (via Los Angeles as part of the Sony Michel trade)*
- Round 6
- Round 7 (via Las Vegas as part of the Trent Brown trade)
- Round 7 (via Houston as part of the Ryan Izzo trade)
*New England will get either this selection or one each in the fifth and sixth rounds
The Patriots also sent two of their 2022 picks away via trades. Their fifth-rounder was sent to the Las Vegas Raiders for offensive tackle Trent Brown, while their original seventh-round now belongs to the Miami Dolphins as part of the Isaiah Ford trade.
Even without those two selections in the fold, and with the future of the Michel trade yet to be determined, New England has plenty of capital available next spring.
New England made the most out of the situation
After declining the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, the Patriots had three options when it came to Michel: trade him at one point before the in-season trade deadline, release him at one point, or keep him on the roster before letting him leave in free agency. Sending him to Los Angeles now was arguably the best outcome in terms of recouping value.
While New England did not get an early-round selection back for the former 31st overall draft pick, the team still generated a return better than the one it would have gotten had Michel gone through the free agent/compensatory process. Furthermore, the Patriots also created cap space — something that would not have been the case had they simply released him.