This is the first in a series of Patriots internal free agent posts. You can find the full offseason plan here.
LeGarrette Blount is coming off the best season of his career. At 30 years old he put up 1,161 yards and a Patriots team record 18 touchdowns. However Blount was once again a total non-factor in the playoffs, putting up his worst playoff numbers in his three trips to the post-season with the Pats.
Blount didn’t draw much interest on the open market last season, re-signing with New England on a one-year, $1 million deal. He was coming off a season-ending hip injury which might’ve scared away some potential bidders.
Now, Blount’s deal is up again and despite his record-setting 2016, I think it’s time to let the veteran running back go and throw some youth at the position.
Blount certainly had his moments in 2016, but the real question — is he still trending up or has the decline already begun? Despite getting 18 rushing touchdowns, a whopping 11 of them came from just one yard out. When Curtis Martin put up 14 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons, setting the initial rushing touchdown record, just nine of those 28 touchdowns in 1995 and 1996 came from a yard out.
Yeah, 18 touchdowns is impressive, but Blount’s production was largely tied to the Patriots overall offensive production.
The bigger problem with Blount is how hot and cold he’s always been. For the four times he topped 100 yards this season, he averaged under four yards-per-attempt in eight games. Against the Broncos, Blount had 17 carries for 31 yards, a 1.9 average. In the three playoff games he averaged 3.11 yards-per-attempt and had just one touchdown.
Perhaps the biggest nail in Blount’s coffin was his performance in the Super Bowl which featured getting stopped short on 3rd-and-one on the first drive of the game, a critical fumble in the second quarter and just 2.82 yards-per-attempt against an Atlanta run defense that was 28th in DVOA. Seven of his Super Bowl carries went for two yards or less.
Blount has been a big key in a handful of specific games but the Patriots have squeezed just about all they can out of him. Running backs don’t trend upward after 30, and though Blount had his best season as a Patriot and would probably be affordable once again, it would be in the team’s best interest to turn the page.
He has never become a running back who can be leaned on. Once he gets to the second level he’s devastating. But there are many games where he barely reaches the second level at all. And he’s certainly not making anything out of nothing.
With Dion Lewis and James White, the Patriots have two good receiving backs who are most critical to the Patriots best offensive strategy. Adding a young hard charger who can take carries a game while also playing special teams, would be ideal. Some fresh explosive legs that can get out of the back field quickly would improve the Patriots offense with more capable diversity in their backfield.
Blount was a part of a lot of great moments over the last four seasons, but it’s time to find more consistency from their early-down power back.