New England Patriots: Could Willis McGahee Be the Final Piece to the Backfield?

Aaron DodgeAnalyst IMarch 31, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 03:  Willis McGahee #23 of the Baltimore Ravens runs against Richard Seymour #92 of the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe brought up an intriguing topic this week in response to a fan submitted question.

The question was pointed towards the New England Patriots backfield situation and whether the team had any intention of acquiring another running back. Young offered up a couple of different directions the team could go in, listing draft prospects along with current Baltimore Ravens veteran Willis McGahee.

Any acquisition would only add to an already talented and promising crop of running backs. Last season the Patriots featured two players at the position in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who entered the season with three combined starts. Both players went undrafted in 2008 and have scraped for playing time and the right opportunity since they snuck into the league.

Green-Ellis busted out for 1,008 yards and finished second in the league with 13 touchdowns in his first season as a featured runner, while Danny Woodhead took over the third-down role, racking up a hair under 1,000 all-purpose yards with six touchdowns of his own.

Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor are all without contracts for the 2011 season and that is likely to remain the case, at least in regards to the Patriots. So there does appear to be a legitimate vacant slot that the team will look to fill.

New England has carried a veteran runner nearly every season since the Belichick era began in 2000, and the consistent presence of an experienced ball-carrier seems to be a real value to the organization.

The Patriots have experienced different levels of success with veteran running backs over the years. Corey Dillon set the franchise record for rushing yards in 2004 as he averaged over 100 yards a game and carried the team to its second consecutive Super Bowl win.

Most other signings go the Sammy Morris or LaMont Jordan route. Both players were solid insurance policies against injury, never caused any locker room issues and played respectably when called upon.

It's a mixed bag of results when it comes to veteran running backs, however, and Corey Dillon's aren't available every offseason. With the youth movement already in full effect in New England's backfield, the team could very well elect to pursue a player with experience rather than adding a rookie to the mix. 

So with that said, could Willis McGahee be a fit?

At 29-years-old he still should have his legs under him, especially considering his limited work load over the past two seasons. McGahee has had staunch competition since the Ravens drafted both Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain.

In his first four years in the league McGahee never rushed for any less than 259 carries, and that was during an injury shortened season in 2006. He's only seen a combined 209 total carries over the last two seasons due to his decreased role in Baltimore.

That decreased role combined with his $6 million salary make him a candidate for release once the new CBA is finalized. McGahee's agent, Drew Roesenhaus, has already gone on record saying he expects his client to be either released or traded this offseason.

The puzzle pieces all seem to fit, but this is, of course, purely speculation at least at this stage. New England fans know full well that their team does much more speculation than they do as head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio do their due diligence on every single available player.

Only time will tell whether or not Willis McGahee is "in the best interest of the team" as the Hoodie would say, but this situation looks like it has all the ingredients of a good signing.


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