ESPN's Mike Reiss suggests that Burkhead is "more likely to get the initial nod" over first-rounder Sony Michel this season, in terms of goal-line duty.
Reiss points out that Michel racked up 12 fumbles in college and thus has some things to prove to the Patriots' coaching staff in terms of ball-security. Burkhead's occasional run in the role last season may give him a leg up in advance of training camp, but it's worth noting that both Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill could also emerge as options in close. While the team's goal-line plans are far from mapped out at this stage, the point to glean here is that the versatile Burkhead can't be overlooked, even following the high-profile addition of Michel.
The Patriots also roster pass-catching ace James White, Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee (for now). The addition of Michel, who draws Alvin Kamara comparisons, complicates matters from a weekly projection standpoint, but the rookie's presence will no doubt make up for the free-agent departure of 2017 team rushing leader Dion Lewis. The versatile Burkhead is thus slated to remain a valuable jack-of-all-trades option in the New England offense, but Michel is clearly the upside fantasy play in this backfield.
Burkhead's three-year contract with the Patriots contains $5.5 million fully guaranteed, including all of his $1 million base salary for 2018 and $1.5 million of his $1.75 million base salary for 2019, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reports.
Burkhead provided a solid return on his one-year, $3.15 million deal with New England in 2017, piling up eight touchdowns, 30 catches and 518 scrimmage yards (254 receiving) in 10 regular-season games, though he only had 12 snaps and five touches in two playoff appearances. The Patriots still have James White for passing downs and signed Jeremy Hill to compete with Mike Gilislee for a power-back role, but there should be plenty of room for Burkhead to contribute as a jack-of-all-trades performer, including some work on special teams. Dion Lewis is out of the picture, and Hill's one-year, $1.5 million contract includes only $150,000 guaranteed. The structure of Burkhead's deal all but ensures he won't be released before 2020.
With Dion Lewis departing for the Titans in free agency, Burkhead's decision to re-up with New England tentatively makes him the most logical candidate on the roster to lead what is expected to be a committee situation out of the backfield in 2018. In addition to Burkhead, the Patriots still have power back Mike Gillislee and pass-catching specialist James White under contract, giving the team some diverse options at running back. Moreover, further depth at the position is likely to arrive via free agency or the draft, but Burkhead's versatility and nose for the end zone -- he scored eight total touchdowns in 10 games last season -- are clearly assets the Patriots value.
Burkhead can become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday when the league year begins, ESPN.com's Mike Reiss reports.
Burkhead was efficient with his limited opportunities while playing on a one-year, $3.15 million contract in 2017, taking 64 carries for 264 yards (4.1 average) and five touchdowns and catching 30 of 36 targets for 254 yards (7.1 per target) and three scores in 10 regular-season games. While his skill as a pass blocker and receiver came as no surprise, the extent of his contribution in the red zone was an unexpected development. With Dion Lewis likely priced out of town, Burkhead would make sense as a cheaper alternative in New England, where he'd continue to split work with pass-catching specialist James White and either Mike Gilislee or an offseason addition. Burkhead's versatility, which includes special teams work, should ensure he draws interest from a variety of teams.
|2017||New England Patriots||10||3||64||264||4.1||31||5||2||14|
|2017||New England Patriots||10||3||30||254||8.5||23||3||1||0||13|
|2017||New England Patriots||10||1||17||17.0||17||0||0|
|2017||New England Patriots||10||4||4.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|Year||Team||G||No.||Yds||Lg||Avg||Blk||I20||TB||Downed||No||Ret Yds||TD||Net Avg|
|2017||New England Patriots||10||0||0||0||---||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||---|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|
|2017||New England Patriots||10||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|