Patriots wise to kick tires on veteran RBs

The New England Patriots have just about everything you want on offense. They have an elite quarterback, two stud tight ends and a good collection of wide receivers, led by Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.

But the one thing New England's offense lacks is a solid veteran presence at running back. That is why the reigning AFC champs are wise to kick the tires on free agent tailbacks Ryan Grant and Tim Hightower.

Grant is entering his sixth season, and Hightower is entering his fifth. Either choice would add experience to a young group that includes 2011 draft picks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

Grant, in particular, would be a solid signing if it's at a bargain rate. His best years were in 2008 and 2009, but the Patriots are not a run-heavy team, and only need a complementary rusher. Grant averages 4.3 yards for his career, and could do well in role like the one BenJarvus Green-Ellis filled for the Patriots. Ridley, Vereen and Danny Woodhead also would provide support. The Patriots can continue riding the hot hand out of this group, week to week in 2012.

What the Patriots do not need is another young running back. So don't expect New England to take one high in next week's NFL draft.