The Patriots especially will need that veteran leadership in the backfield, but who knows if Kevin Faulk could do more than that, or how much the Patriots would want him to do.
One thing they won't do is pay anyone to just be a veteran leader, which begs the question: Should they re-sign Kevin Faulk?
In his book, Take Your Eye Off The Ball, NFL.com Senior Writer Pat Kirwan names three distinct models for building and maintaining a franchise. He cites the Philadelphia Eagles as a "buy early and often" team, and refers to the Baltimore Ravens as the "we want what's best for you" model.
How does he describe New England's approach? "Make the tough calls."
That is exactly what the Patriots organization has done in the 11 years that Belichick has coached the team. Kirwan gives us a detailed look at the Patriots' approach.
The Patriots simply don't allow themselves to get emotionally attached to players. They make business decisions and let guys go if they think they won't be worthy of their next contract.
Sure, there are guys who the Patriots never had to say goodbye to. Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons in New England. The 2010 season will be Kevin Faulk's 12th with the team. These guys defied the fate that so many of their teammates faced because they never priced themselves out of town.
Chances are good that Kevin Faulk won't price himself out of town this time around, either. He had a chance to jump ship in the 2010 free agency period, but elected to stay with the Patriots despite interest from some other teams.
So really, the question is, what capacity, and what role is Kevin Faulk best suited for?
He's been in the Patriots offensive system since before Belichick arrived. He could impart his vast knowledge of the scheme, its tendencies, and also its weaknesses. ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss shared his thoughts recently on whether Faulk will be back for another year.
It's hard to imagine [Faulk] won't be re-signed when free agency ultimately begins. His knowledge of the system, coupled with his willingness to be a mentor to rookies like Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, adds to his value to the team. A spot on the final roster might not be a certainty, but at the start of training camp, it seems obvious that the Patriots are a better team with Faulk around.
More than Faulk's contributions on the field, the Patriots could really use his presence on the sideline in bringing along their young group of backs.
This is especially true now, after the Patriots spent a second- and third-round draft pick on running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Those two, along with Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, could really use the mentoring that Faulk has to offer. After all, they are likely to be the successors at running back.
The teachings of Faulk will be valuable to the young backs, but it's up to those young backs to learn from him. Faulk has knowledge as deep as the ocean, and the new backs will have to be like a sponge for that water.
This time, the decision seems easy. The Patriots should try to keep him around at their price, because chances are good he won't leave for another team.
One option the Patriots might want to explore is to sign him on as a running back coach. He could still bring that valuable information to the running backs, and they wouldn't have to use a roster spot on him. That would, of course, imply Faulk's acceptance of that role.
He's a competitor, and may not be so willing to idly stand by as the Patriots make one last run at a Super Bowl.