Rex Burkhead, Patriots Agree to Contract After 4 Years with Bengals

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured Columnist

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Rex Burkhead #33 of the Cincinnati Bengals is seen before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The New England Patriots announced the signing of free-agent running back Rex Burkhead on Tuesday.

ESPN.com's Field Yates, citing a source, reported Wednesday that Burkhead's Patriots deal is for one year and $3.15 million with a $1.1 million signing bonus, $1.8 million base salary and $250,000 in per-game roster bonuses.

Burkhead was Cincinnati's clear No. 3 rusher behind Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in 2016, but he was afforded a chance to shine over the final month of the regular season. Specifically, Burkhead broke out in Week 17 as the Bengals' feature back to the tune of 27 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

"He proved today, man, he can run the football. I'd take him as a No. 1 any day of the week," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said after the win, per Geoff Hobson of the team's official website. "I don't think there's too many teams where he wouldn't fit. He runs the ball well. He's got great agility. He's got eyes, he's got it all."

ESPN Insider's Rivers McCown backed up that observation and noted Burkhead made the most of his limited carries last season.

"Burkhead finished first in rushing defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) among all players with fewer than 100 carries," he wrote. "Hill was 25th among 42 qualifying backs in the same statistic, finishing with five times less DYAR than Burkhead in triple the carries."

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The 26-year-old may not be a No. 1 rusher at this point considering he's tallied 87 carries through four NFL seasons, but he projects as a legitimate timeshare partner who can thrive on third downs because of his solid hands and elusive ability in the open field.

With the Patriots, he can potentially replace free agent LeGarrette Blount in a rotation with James White and Dion Lewis. He could especially be useful on early downs and goal-line work, which led to 18 rushing touchdowns for Blount in 2016.

Plus, Burkhead could prove to be a cost-effective long-term solution with Lewis slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017 season.

At the very least, the former Nebraska Cornhusker can be a quality special teamer after he led the Bengals in tackles on kick and punt returns last season, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.