Gillislee "did not appear to be as quick or fluid" as most of the Patriots' other running backs during positional work in the team's current voluntary OTAs, Paul Perillo of the Patriots' official site reports.
There's time for Gillislee to pick up the pace, but his outlook with the Patriots has changed quite a bit since last spring when he was signed to replace LeGarrette Blount as the team's "big back." His projected assignment appeared to carry TD-upside with it, but after a strong start, things fizzled out for Gillislee in 2017. He's fighting for a roster spot at this stage, with Brandon Bolden, Jeremy Hill and undrafted free agent Ralph Webb also battling for slotting behind roster locks Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White.
With Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White locks to make the team, it stands to reason that Gillislee, Hill and Bolden will jostle for depth slotting in the New England backfield. Bolden brings special-teams utility to the table and Hill was a free agent acquisition, so reading the tea leaves, it could take an injury or two for Gillislee to stick around in the wake of a 2017 season in which he was a healthy scratch for much of the second half of the campaign.
Hill's arrival followed the departure of Dion Lewis, the team's top rusher last season. With versatile Rex Burkhead and pass-catching back James White seemingly locked into roles in the Patriots' backfield attack, Gillislee and Hill are on track to jostle for early-down and short-yardage work. It's possible that the player who lags behind in that job battle could be eventually be cut, but either way Gillislee has much to prove before regaining fantasy relevance on the heels of a 2017 campaign in which he was a healthy scratch for much of the second half of the season.
Signed to a two-year, $6.4 million contract last April, Gillislee opened 2017 as the Patriots' lead runner and scored four touchdowns the first two weeks, but averaged only 3.7 yards per carry on the season and mostly served as a healthy scratch from October onward. The 27-year-old does have a couple things working in his favor, with his front-heavy contract carrying a modest 2018 cap charge of approximately $2.2 million, while teammates Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are set to become unrestricted free agents. Even if both players head elsewhere and Gillislee is retained, the Patriots likely will find a draft pick or free agent to provide competition for carries. James White is locked in as the Patriots' pass-catching specialist and is signed through 2020.
Gillislee finished the 2017 season with 104 carries for 383 yards and five TDs to go along with one catch for 15 yards in nine games.
As he was at times down the stretch during the regular season, Gillislee was a healthy scratch for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Eagles. The 27-year-old scored four of his TDs in the Patriots' first two games and subsequently saw teammate Dion Lewis supplant him as the team's top back. Gillislee remains under contract with New England in 2018, but it's not out of the question that the Patriots consider parting ways with him, with the running back's contract for next season not calling for any guaranteed money.
|2017||New England Patriots||9||2||104||383||3.7||16||5||0||25|
|2017||New England Patriots||9||2||1||15||15.0||15||0||0||0||1|
|2017||New England Patriots||9||0||0||---||0||0||0|
|2017||New England Patriots||9||0||0.0||0||0||0||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||9||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|