The Patriots lost Dion Lewis to free agency, but they brought back Rex Burkhead on a new multi-year deal.
Running back Rex Burkhead is heading back to the New England Patriots on a multi-year contract, according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe. The Patriots shore up their running back depth after losing Dion Lewis to the Tennessee Titans in free agency.
The Patriots signed Burkhead to a one-year deal last offseason after a promising stretch run with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016. He was part of a stacked depth chart alongside Lewis, Mike Gillislee, and James White. However, injuries prevented him from fully living up to his potential.
Burkhead suffered a rib injury in Week 2 that sidelined him for four games. He returned in Week 7 and came on strong towards the end, with six touchdowns in four games. But a sprained knee in Week 15 knocked him out for the rest of the regular season, and he didn’t return until late in the playoffs. Clearly not 100 percent, Burkhead played just three snaps in the AFC Championship Game, and nine in the Super Bowl.
Despite the injuries, Burkhead was a good player when healthy. He finished the season with 518 total yards on 94 touches (64 carries, 30 receptions) in ten games. Burkhead also scored eight touchdowns, eventually supplanting Gillislee as the short-yardage specialist. His receiving skill is especially useful for Tom Brady and the Patriots, who value running backs that can catch out of the backfield. With Lewis gone, Burkhead has a prime chance to seize the starting job this offseason.
The #Patriots and RB Rex Burkhead agreed on a 3-year deal, source said. It’s heavy on guaranteed money.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2018
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) March 14, 2018
Rex Burkhead was a touchdown machine for the Patriots this season. He had eight in 10 games, including six in a four-game span late in the year.
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) March 14, 2018
Burkhead hasn’t quite broken out as a lead runner, but he was a valuable part of the Patriots’ backfield committee last season. He’ll need to stay healthy if he hopes to earn a bigger role, especially with White and Gillislee still in the fold. Even at 27 years old, there is reason to believe Burkhead still has untapped potential. Bringing him back is a smart move that prevents the Patriots’ running game from losing another important piece.