Shortly after the clock struck 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, thus ringing in the official start of free agency, the New England Patriots lost one of their most experienced players. Running back Brandon Bolden will reportedly sign a contract with the Las Vegas Raiders, thus reuniting with long-time Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
What does Bolden’s departure mean for his now-former team, however? Let’s find out.
The Patriots’ running back depth gets thinned out a bit
New England was able to re-sign fellow veteran running back and pending free agent James White earlier this week, softening the blow of Bolden’s departure. However, losing the veteran still has an impact on the overall depth of the team’s running back group.
As of right now and with Bolden headed to Las Vegas, it looks as follows:
- Early-down back: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson
- Receiving back: James White, J.J. Taylor, Devine Ozigbo
The early-down options are not going anywhere: Harris and Stevenson are a solid one-two punch and played some impressive football last season. Bolden would have been a part of the second group — one that faces a bit of uncertainty even with White back in the fold.
The veteran, after all, is coming off season-ending hip surgery after suffering an injury in late September. Bolden took over as the lead receiving/third-down/up-tempo back with White out and delivered a solid season, touching the ball 89 times for 658 yards and three scores. While a downgrade from White, Bolden was a valuable member of the team.
Now, the backup spots behind White belong to J.J. Taylor and Devin Ozigbo. Both players are unproven at this point in their respective careers.
Bolden’s departure will also be felt on special teams
While his usage on the offensive side of the ball stood out last year, Bolden also continued to play a prominent role in the kicking game. Being on the field for 293 of a possible 464 snaps in the game’s third phase (63.1%), he saw regular action on both return and coverage teams and registered eight total tackles.
With fellow core special teamer Brandon King an unrestricted free agent as well, New England’s kicking game stands to lose plenty of experience this offseason. That said, the team was able to retain long-time captain Matthew Slater on a one-year contract.
New England loses a much-respected team leader
Bolden’s role in the Patriots running back room last year extended beyond serving as a stand-in after White was lost. The 32-year-old, who first entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012, also was the leader of what was a young position group: Damien Harris was in his third year in the league, J.J. Taylor in his second, and Rhamondre Stevenson in his first.
After the season had ended, Stevenson spoke highly about the impression Bolden has made on him.
“He comes in here ready to work every day. I’ve never seen Brandon have a bad day,” he said. “I know why now, because of the things he’s been though and things like that. So, I understand his joy for life as a whole. That’s my big bro and it’s just all love in that room.”
Quarterback Mac Jones, who also was drafted by the Patriots last year, sang Bolden’s praises as well.
“He is just a great team player and he has obviously been in the NFL for a long time. Just like James has. He has seen a lot of football and he just helps the team win in any way he can. He makes plays,” Jones said during the regular season.
“He stepped up and did a good job of running the ball. He is fast and strong, and he is a great teammate too, which is really important. He always has my back and has other people’s back on our offense and keeps it positive. That is what makes is really fun to play with him.”
Bolden will factor into the compensatory draft picks formula
Just like most other unrestricted free agents, Bolden will be counted towards the compensatory draft picks formula. This means that the Patriots might earn an extra selection for him in next year’s draft, depending on multiple factors.
At the moment, New England is projected to earn two extra picks: the team lost cornerback J.C. Jackson on a five-year, $82.5 million contract to the Los Angeles Chargers, and guard Ted Karras on a three-year, $18 million pact to the Cincinnati Bengals. Meanwhile, the Patriots have not signed any qualifying free agents.