The New England Patriots would be a fit for not one, but two big-name playmakers this offseason.
New England would make sense as a destination for former Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott amid the Patriots’ pursuit of DeAndre Hopkins, according to CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin. The Patriots notably released running back James Robinson on June 12 because of his injury issues.
“New England has young Rhamondre Stevenson as a potential offensive focal point, but after cutting the injury-riddled James Robinson before he could even make his Patriots debut, they could use proven insurance,” Benjamin wrote on June 19. “Elliott may be past his full-time days, but as a pass blocker and short-term rotational piece, he’d fit right into a typically crowded Bill Belichick backfield.”
Elliott, who got released by the Dallas Cowboys in March, hasn’t found a team yet despite his prior success in the league. The two-time NFL rushing champion and 2016 MVP candidate has 8,262 yards and 68 touchdowns in seven seasons. He was a Pro Bowler in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
Despite a career low of 3.8 yards per carry last season, Elliott still produced 876 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. He would add depth to the Patriots backfield and help alleviate the loss of Damien Harris to the Buffalo Bills.
In addition, Elliott wouldn’t come cheap to New England. He had a six-year, $90 million deal with the Cowboys before his release. While Elliott will likely have to acquiesce to a significantly smaller contract to play in 2023, the Patriots have only $14.95 million of salary cap space.
Elliott might have to play for the league minimum if he doesn’t re-sign with Dallas, according to The Athletic’s Bob Sturm in February.
“I believe he has one option for employment above the league minimum and it is … in Dallas,” Sturm wrote. “I could be wrong, but if I am, it is a very low number. Maybe one year for $2 million or $2.5 million which is a far cry from what he is used to.”
DeAndre Hopkins a Possible Obstacle to Signing Ezekiel Elliott
Some of the Patriots’ remaining cap space could go toward Hopkins if he signs with the team. The Patriots are “hopeful” of a Hopkins signing, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
“The Patriots feel that they’re in a pretty good spot; that they had a really productive visit with Hopkins on Thursday,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said on the June 18 episode of “SportsCenter,” according to Bleacher Report’s transcription. “He showed up early in the morning and was there late into the afternoon, spent part of the night in New England there. Spent significant time in the building with Bill Belichick.”
“I’m told there is significant mutual respect between Hopkins, the player, and the Hall of Fame coach in Belichick,” Fowler added. “So, they’re hopeful, certainly. He knows the interest is high and Hopkins gave the impression he’s certainly intrigued, interested in playing with New England. But he also does with the Titans and is not in a major rush to sign anywhere, could wait until closer to training camp, if need be, depending on the right deal.”
Offensive Tackle Remains Patriots’ Biggest Concern
Even if the Patriots land Hopkins and could offer the right amount for Elliott, neither resolve the most glaring hole on the roster. That’s offensive tackle.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer discussed that issue with NBC Sports Boston recently amid tackle Trent Brown‘s lack of readiness at minicamp last week. In addition, the Patriots’ depth at tackle looks questionable as Breer noted.
“This position. The tackle position has taken down good teams over the last few years,” Breer said.