The market isn't usually very strong for a 29-year-old running back coming off a torn Achilles tendon.
But most 29-year-old running backs with torn Achilles tendons aren't named Arian Foster, and the New England Patriots aren't like most teams with who they target in free agency. And now that the Houston Texans have released Foster, as reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN (via SportsCenter), the Patriots have another option to add to their depth chart at running back.
Even with concerns about Foster's health, he would be a logical signing for a team with as many questions as the Patriots have at the running back position.
LeGarrette Blount is a free agent this offseason, and the two sides have "mutual interest" in reaching a new deal, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Dion Lewis is coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2015 season, and has nearly as many injury concerns over the course of his short career as Foster has in his six NFL seasons.
Assuming return of FB Develin, Arian Foster would be great buy-low addition to #Patriots O. Q is how to price--missed 48% of gms last 3 yrs— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) March 3, 2016
That being said, his health and age could drive his price down, and the Patriots are annually searching for bargain-bin signings to assemble a deep group of backs. It seems like they always end up with six or seven running backs on the roster, slowly whittling the group down over the course of the spring and summer.
Why not kick the tires—especially if the Patriots can get him on a contract that gives them some escapability and doesn't tie them down with guaranteed money.
Beyond all of that, Foster is a fit for what the Patriots need in a running back.
Foster has had a great career to this point, but he has missed significant chunks of time over the past few seasons with injuries. But when he's been healthy, he's been among the most productive backs in the league year in and year out.
Even if he loses a step after this latest injury, it won't spell the end for him. Speed wasn't his best asset. He was known for his one-cut running ability, so if he can plant and burst, he will still be an effective back. As a one-cut back, he also had a reputation for great vision and patience in allowing the play to develop, finding the hole and hitting it with conviction.
That's precisely what the Patriots need: a disciplined, hard-nosed, between-the-tackles runner who is also effective on outside runs.
Foster has made his hay in a zone-running scheme, but the Patriots have always been multiple on offense, employing both power- and zone-running concepts in their scheme. In that sense, Foster isn't going to answer all of the questions and concerns facing the Patriots at running back this offseason—unless he becomes more versatile sometime between now and the beginning of the season.
Of course, the Patriots have always found ways to incorporate talented veterans into their offense, as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick isn't afraid to modify his scheme to fit the best players on the roster.
Luckily for the Patriots, Foster has proved to be a proficient receiver out of the backfield, and was on pace for one of the best receiving seasons of his career before the injury. Granted, he was also on pace for one of the worst rushing seasons of his career before the injury, so take that information with a grain of salt.
Should the Patriots sign Arian Foster?
The Patriots haven't typically featured a running back in their offense, which goes against the way Foster has been used throughout his career. At this point, however, it might make more sense for Foster to be a complementary back in order to take some of the stress off of him and help avoid injury.
With all that being said, the price has to be right for the Patriots. They will take into account his injury history and what his role would be on their team. Foster might get more money from a team that is willing to use him in a larger role and is less concerned with his injury history, and that also has more cap money to spend.
But if not, the Patriots could find Foster to be a fit for their needs.