FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- During the New England Patriots' on-field celebration following the AFC Championship Game in January, coach Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount shared a celebratory moment. Belichick excitedly told Blount that it was this type of championship feeling, and not the modest $1 million contract he had signed, that was the reason he returned to New England to play a leading role in the team's offensive success.
That story is timely to revisit Wednesday with news from ESPN.com NFL Insider Field Yates that the club has applied a seldom-used May 9 tender to Blount that helps the club retain some leverage over his free-agent status.
This is a strategic move by the Patriots that falls into the category of something Belichick often says, "Every decision made is in the best interest of the team."
By placing the tender on Blount, it shows the team's willingness to have him back at a $1.1 million salary with bonuses that could increase the deal to just north of $2 million. The tender also increases the team's chances of earning better compensatory draft picks if Blount signs elsewhere, because after May 9, the compensatory draft pick formula is no longer in effect with players who don't receive a tender.
So the rare tender also provides a roadblock for some interested teams -- perhaps the Baltimore Ravens -- who would have their compensatory-pick formula affected by signing Blount.
The Ravens are the team that mostly came to mind, especially after reading ESPN.com NFL Nation reporter Jamison Hensley's piece on how Blount would be a perfect fit for them after their challenging 2016 season running the football. No team in the NFL protects/values its compensatory picks like the Ravens, so it's possible the Patriots' tender to Blount is a move made to block him from landing in Baltimore, one of the Patriots' top rivals.
The New York Giants and Detroit Lions are two other teams that have been connected to Blount in media reports. The Giants are expected to be awarded at least one compensatory pick in 2018, according to Overthecap.com, so signing Blount could affect their haul. The Lions currently aren't expected to receive any compensatory picks, according to OvertheCap.com.
As for Blount, whose jersey number (29) already has been reissued in New England to undrafted free-agent cornerback D.J. Killings, this is a hit to his status as a free agent with no strings attached. One could make an argument that he would probably have an agreement with another team at this point if not for compensatory draft pick consideration.
So it will be interesting to see how this affects his status in an offseason the Patriots have loaded up at running back, striking deals with Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and James White that average in the $3 million-per-year range.
As players often say, the NFL is a business, and this is a bottom-line business move by the Patriots that protects their interests.