Burkhead signed a one-year, $3.15 million contract that includes a $1.1 million signing bonus. In addition to assuring him of a roster spot, the contract suggests the Patriots expect him to contribute on offense. Burkhead was always a strong special teams contributor in Cincinnati, and last season he also demonstrated proficiency as a pass catcher, pass blocker and even as a runner. The Patriots do already have a pair of talented pass-catching backs in the form of Dion Lewis (hamstring) and James White, but they may still find a way to get Burkhead some touches.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder carried 74 times for 344 yards and two TDs, while adding 17 catches for 145 yards in a part-time role with the Bengals last season. Given his ability to contribute on special teams, the addition of Burkhead could signal that the Patriots could move on from free agent reserve RB Brandon Bolden. Burkhead joins a backfield that also consists of James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster and Tyler Gaffney. Meanwhile, the team's leading rusher in 2016, LeGarrette Blount, remains a free agent, though it's still possible that he could be re-signed. Alternatively, the Patriots could look to add another "big back" to replace Blount via free agency or the draft.
Burkhead is making a free-agent visit with the Patriots, ESPN's Field Yates reports.
Burkhead is represented by the same agent as Patriots coach Bill Belichick and profiles as a potential replacement for free agent Brandon Bolden, who has occupied a reserve tailback and special teams role for New England over recent seasons. In playing all 16 games this past year, the gritty Burkhead totaled a career-high 633 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns to go with 13 tackles and two fumbles forced.
Burkhead rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries while catching both of his targets for 25 yards in Sunday's 27-10 win over Baltimore.
Burkhead handled the vast majority of the rushing workload with Jeremy Hill (knee) inactive for the season finale. He didn't pick up more than 17 yards on any one play, but turned consistent modest gains into a fantastic performance. The pending free agent found pay dirt in the first and fourth quarters for his first two touchdowns of the season, helping his stock for this coming offseason. Burkhead's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and 4.6 yards per carry average on 74 attempts this season make him a desirable asset for teams in need of help at running back.
Burkhead is expected to carry the load at running back Week 17 against the Ravens, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
With Hill limited in Week 16, Burkhead picked up 49 offensive snaps, turning it into 12 carries for 42 yards (while tacking on four catches for 25 yards). Now that Hill is inactive, look for Burkhead to be "the bellcow," with Cedric Peerman and Tra Carson on hand for relief, if needed. It's a tough fantasy matchup, however, as the Ravens have allowed opposing running backs to score just six times all season.
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