Patriots reportedly sign Rex Burkhead to three-year deal after losing Dion Lewis

The Patriots have been bleeding in free agency, losing running back Dion Lewis, cornerback Malcolm Butler, and left tackle Nate Solder in a 24-hour window. Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, the Patriots replaced one of their losses.

According to the Boston Globe's Jim McBride, the Patriots reached a multiyear agreement with running back Rex Burkhead, who enjoyed a productive first season in New England and could now see his role expand after Lewis bolted for Tennessee on Tuesday. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots gave him a three-year deal that is "heavy" on guarantees.

Burkhead joined the Patriots last offseason after a four-year run with the Bengals. Splitting time with Lewis, James White, and Mike Gillislee, Burkhead managed to total a career-high in yards from scrimmage with 518 (264 as a runner and 254 as a pass catcher) and touchdowns with eight (five as a runner and three as a pass catcher). He posted a top-10 receiving grade at his position group, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Among the four running backs, Burkhead logged the second-fewest snaps with 195, ahead of Gillislee (171), but far behind Lewis (406) and White (382), per PFF. Without Lewis, the Patriots will likely maintain their committee method with White taking on another substantial role. It's difficult to project how Burkhead's role will be impacted by Lewis' departure because this is New England we're talking about, but at the very least, it's difficult to envision a scenario that involves Burkhead's workload decreasing. An increase seems likely if only because he missed six regular season games with rib and knee injuries last season.

Signing Burkhead won't move the needle the same way the Lewis signing did, but it's a nice move by the Patriots, who have been suffering since the legal-tampering period opened up before the new league year officially began on Wednesday. Lewis and Butler are with the Titans now, and Solder is with the Giants, which means the Patriots lost their best running back, left tackle, and one of their starting cornerbacks in free agency. Nobody should expect the Patriots' run of dominance to end in 2018 -- unless, of course, the gluten from the beer that Tom Brady recently chugged on TV destroys his superhuman powers -- but they'll have their work cut out for them this offseason as they try to replace three of their most important players.

Locking up Burkhead for three years is a nice start, but the Patriots are probably only getting started.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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