Patriots Lose Veteran RB to Texans in Free Agency

Getty Rex Burkhead

The New England Patriots appear to have enough bodies at running back, but that doesn’t mean they won’t miss Rex Burkhead. The veteran running back agreed to sign with the Houston Texans, per John McCain of the Houston Chronicle.

Burkhead, 30, had spent the last four seasons with the Patriots, helping them win the Super Bowl LIII back in 2019. Burkhead suffered a season-ending knee injury in November 2020, ironically against the Texans. He was having a solid season at the time of the injury with 274 rush yards, 192 receiving yards, and six total TDs.

Perhaps more than the versatility, but what shouldn’t be undersold is Burkhead’s impact on a locker room. Burkhead’s teammates have loved him during his time with the Patriots.

Many of them spoke out in support of their fallen teammate after his unfortunate injury. Burkhead’s leadership will now be absent from the Patriots locker room as the team chose not to gamble on the potential effectiveness of a 30-year-old running back coming off a serious knee injury.

Burkhead posted a video of himself seemingly running at full speed on a treadmill on April 1. NESN’s Zack Cox shared it.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss had this to say about Burkhead’s departure:

Great to see Rex Burkhead healthy again, and while the Patriots have a crowded backfield, would imagine it is still tough for some of his New England teammates to see him depart.

While bringing Burkhead back might have been a feel-good story, it’s hard to find fault with the decision to move on.

Why the Patriots Let Burkhead Walk

New England has Damien Harris, Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson and veteran Brandon Bolden at running back.
They seem to be set at the position, and there is some belief Michel will be released before the start of the season because the team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option.

In any case, New England chose to save the roster spot and cap space by allowing Burkhead to sign elsewhere, and he chose a spot with some level of familiarity.

There Are Lots of Patriots in Houston

The list of former Patriots on the Texans’ roster is lengthy. Take a look:

  • Rex Burkhead
  • Marcus Cannon
  • Terrence Brooks
  • Ryan Izzo
  • Derek Rivers
  • Donte Moncrief
  • Kamu Grugier-Hill
  • Jordan Steckler
  • Paul Quessenberry
  • Brandin Cooks
  • Keion Crossen
  • Hjalte Froholdt
  • A.J. Moore

The number of former Patriots in Houston should come as no surprise. There are some holdovers from the Bill O’Brien era (he was a former Patriots assistant), and the Texans’ new general manager Nick Caserio was New England’s president of player personnel.

Caserio has made it a point to acquire players he was fond of while with the Patriots organization. Quite honestly, he hasn’t snagged a ton of choice talent. Burkhead might be the highlight of the list.

While he has been a great locker room guy, he’s not anyone the Texans can count on to make a significant impact in 2021. The Texans also have a logjam at running back with David Johnson, Philip Lindsay, and Mark Ingram II.

Based on that list and Burkhead’s age, he’s no lock to make the Texans’ roster.

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