FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Former New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday, one day after he reportedly left the field before the end of the Steelers' victory over the Titans.
That sparked the question of whether the Patriots might consider re-signing Blount.
Let's weigh some pros and cons.
The case to re-sign Blount
1. Has notable impact as a bad-weather runner. This is the time of year when precipitation can be a factor. As we learned last year when Blount ran all over the Bills for a franchise-record 334 total yards in the season finale in rainy weather, and defenders were bouncing off his 250-pound frame, he can be a hammer to punish the opposition.
2. Potential boost to kickoff return game. This is also the time of year when kickoff returns become more of a factor, and Blount could possibly provide a spark to the Patriots in that area. Receiver Danny Amendola is currently the top returner, and he's been effective. They are obviously two different types of returners: Blount is big, powerful and just needs a little bit of room before picking up a head of steam, while Amendola is shiftier.
3. Depth and experience at running back this season and beyond. With first-year player Jonas Gray emerging as the top big back, the Patriots have a nice contrast between the 230-pound Gray and the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Shane Vereen atop the depth chart. Things are filled out by Brandon Bolden (a core special-teams player who is highly valued in that area) and rookie James White (5-10, 205). Adding Blount would bring experience to the team down the homestretch and potentially in the playoffs when the margin for error is thin, while also layering the depth chart both this year and into 2015 when Stevan Ridley, Vereen and Bolden are scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
4. He fell into line in New England. While Blount was released by the Steelers because he reportedly left the field early on Monday night, he was mostly a model citizen in Bill Belichick's program. Based on that, one could make the case that there is no reason to think he'd be a problem in New England.
The case to not re-sign Blount
1. Why disrupt the positive momentum? The Patriots are coming off a game in which Gray rushed for 201 yards (a stat change on Tuesday upped the total from 199 to 201) and players were rallying around him on the field and in the locker room. He's earned his place atop the depth chart and bringing in Blount could stunt the momentum that has been built.
2. Already have an excess at running back. With four running backs on the roster, in addition to fullback James Develin, that's a full house. Every roster decision has a trickle-down effect on another position, so the Patriots would have to trim elsewhere, because Gray, Vereen, Bolden and White aren't going anywhere. Bolden is a core special-teams player and White (4th round, Wisconsin) is being groomed for the future, similar to Vereen in 2011.
3. Finding running backs is easier than having players ready at line of scrimmage. Bringing in Blount would require releasing another player on the roster, and from our view, it would likely be an offensive or defensive lineman. Excess depth at the line of scrimmage is often more important than at running back/kickoff returner, in part because of what it takes to get those bigger-bodied players up to speed both physically and mentally. So while it's easy to say a player like Blount would make the team better over someone like offensive lineman Jordan Devey, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Devey, for example, filled in Oct. 12 against the Bills in an emergency situation and held his own.
4. Sometimes things run their course. While some could make the case that because Blount wasn't a problem in his first year with the Patriots, he would fall right into line, others could just as easily point to past situations with Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. Those are players whose tenures went very well until tailing off late, showing that it's all about teams knowing when to move on. Perhaps this is one of those cases.