Potential Patriots: Pierre Thomas
|02.09.11 at 5:26 pm ET|
Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.
Position: Running back
Team: New Orleans
Weight: 215 pounds
Why the Patriots would be interested: New England is likely to make some big changes at running back in the offseason, as four players — Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis — are free agents, and the Patriots figure to cut ties with at least two of them. That means they’ll be in the market for some depth at the position, and Thomas is certainly a fit from a risk/reward perspective.
Why it would happen: History tells us that even if the Patriots are in the market for a running back, they’re not going to go all in for a first rounder. (In his 11 years in Foxboro, Bill Belichick has picked a running back in the first round just once — Laurence Maroney in 2006 — and in hindsight, that ended up being a mistake.) At the same time, there don’t appear to be any potential big-time targets that could be acquired in trade or in free agency. That makes a middle-of-the-road type of pickup like Thomas a potential fit for the Patriots if they are looking to build depth with some new faces at the position. In addition, there doesn’t figure to be a big market for Thomas, as he ended the season on injured reserve because of an ankle problem, and recently had surgery.
Why it won’t happen: The ankle injury hampered Thomas in 2010, and even after surgery, it could be a long-term issue. And while the Patriots are unlikely to gamble a first-round pick on a running back, they could still opt to build depth in later rounds or via undrafted free agents, something they have chosen to do in the past.
Chances: Not a bad fit. The Patriots were reportedly talking with the Saints last October about a deal that would have brought Thomas to New England for a cornerback (Jonathan Wilhite?), talks that reportedly broke down when the Patriots wanted the Saints to throw in a draft pick, so he’s certainly on New England’s radar screen. In addition, the Patriots are clearly in the market to build depth at running back and they probably won’t make a big splash either in the draft or in free agency. The idea of bringing in Thomas — who ran for a combined 1,418 yards in the 2008 and 2009 seasons before last season’s ankle troubles — on an incentive-laden deal would appear to make sense.
Some alternatives: D’Angelo Williams (Carolina), Ahmad Bradshaw (New York Giants), Cedric Benson (Cincinnati), Arian Foster (Houston), Ronnie Brown (Miami) and Ricky Williams (Miami).