|Could the Pats sign one of these free-agent backs or might they address that need in the draft? (Getty Images)|
Kevin Faulk is a free agent. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is now with the Bengals. And the Patriots, despite drafting two running backs in 2011 (Shane Vereen in the second round, Steven Ridley in the third), don't have much experience outside of Danny Woodhead. That explains why New England reportedly hosted three veteran backs Friday.
According to the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young, Joseph Addai was in for a visit, and ESPN adds that Ryan Grant and Tim Hightower were there, too.
Addai spent the first five years of his career with the Colts where he twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but hadn't accomplished the feat since 2007. Last year, he managed just 433 rushing yards (3.7 YPC) and one touchdown in 12 games. Grant, a former undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, played the previous five seasons in Green Bay where he twice cleared the 1,200-yard mark, although he rushed for just 559 yards (4.2 YPC) and two touchdowns in 2011. Hightower, meanwhile, started his NFL career in Arizona. Three years later, he was traded to Washington. He began 2011 as the Redskins starter but an ACL injury put him on the shelf after 84 carries, 321 yards and a touchdown.
With the draft six days off, the Patriots could be evaluating the available free-agent running backs to help finalize their draft board. Or maybe head coach Bill Belichick, who has never been afraid to bring players in and work them out, is doing just that.
Whatever the plan, the Patriots will probably be in the market for a running back, either through free agency or the draft. Two draft-eligible players who fit New England's scheme (via Patriots Football Weekly): Utah State's Robert Turbin and Mississippi State's Vick Ballard. (NFLDraftScout.com ranks Turbin as the ninth-best back in the 2012 draft class -- and 102nd best player -- and Ballard is 13th and 133rd, respectively.)
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