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Weighing pros, cons of potential Patriots reunion with Stevan Ridley 08.25.16 at 10:39 am ET
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Stevan Ridley rushed for 2,817 yards in four years with the Patriots. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley rushed for 2,817 yards in four years with the Patriots. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

So, what about Stevan Ridley?

The former Patriots running back was cut loose by the Lions on Thursday, the latest setback for the extremely likable 27-year-old who has struggled with knee issues over the last two seasons.

Given his background and given the fact that New England finds itself shorthanded at the running back position, it’s worth examining the negatives and positives regarding the thought of a potential Ridley reunion in Foxboro.

The cons? The 5-foot-11, 230-pounder hasn’t been anywhere near the old version of himself since a knee injury midway through the 2014 season that cost him the rest of that year. There’s reason to think he’ll never return to top-shelf status, as he showed very little last year with the Jets (36 carries for 90 yards in nine games).

The pros? He’s a running back with experience in the New England system who could be had for next to nothing. (He’s come as close as anyone to being the first running back under Bill Belichick to ever post back-to-back-1,000-yard rushing seasons with 1,263 rushing yards in 2012 and 773 in 2013.) It’s also worth mentioning he has a fan in running backs coach Ivan Fears.

“They biggest thing about Stevan is that he’s very passionate about the game. Stevan loves to play, and I think that’s his first and biggest asset,” Fears said a few years ago. “There’s no doubt — on a game day, he is there. He is mentally in the right frame of mind to play the game. I think as long as he’s got that kind of passion for the game, he’s going to do the little things that he needs to do to be physically ready to play the game.”

Take a chance? Kick the tires? Or not interested? Give us your take on what the Patriots should do regarding Ridley here.

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Poll: Should Patriots be interested in free agent RB Stevan Ridley? at 9:43 am ET
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Should the Patriots be interested in Stevan Ridley?

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Free agent snapshot: Stevan Ridley 02.16.16 at 11:55 am ET
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Stevan Ridley is back on the market. Would the Patriots entertain the idea of a reunion? (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley is back on the market. Would the Patriots entertain the idea of a reunion? (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys are not necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We started with Matt Forte, Anquan Boldin, Mohamed Sanu and Alshon Jeffery. Now, it’€™s Stevan Ridley.

Player: Stevan Ridley

Position: Running back

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 220 pounds

Age: 27 (will turn 28 on Jan. 27, 2017)

The skinny: Wait, what? That Stevan Ridley? Yep — let me explain: The former third-round pick of the Patriots in 2011, who spent last year with the Jets, is back on the market. Ridley spent the first four years of his career in New England, but a knee injury wrecked the second half of the 2014 season, and watched from the sidelines as the Patriots won a Super Bowl. New England let him walk in free agency to the Jets, and he signed a one-year deal, and while he had 36 carries for 90 yards in nine games last season in New York, it was basically a rehab season for Ridley. The Patriots need a running back. He knows the New England system. And in a lukewarm free agent market for running backs, Ridley would certainly come cheap. He’s not Jim Brown — or even the same guy who had a combined 2,036 rushing yards for the Patriots in 2012 and 2013 — but if the knee is back to something close to 100 percent, a reunion with the Patriots wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world.

By the numbers: Since Bill Belichick took over the Patriots prior to the 2000 season, only two other running backs — Kevin Faulk (3,380 yards) and Corey Dillon (3,180 yards) — have had more rushing yards with New England than Ridley, who had 2,817 rushing yards between 2011 and 2014.

Why it would work: He would likely cost next to nothing, he’s familiar with the Patriots system and New England is in the market for some running back help. At the very least, it’s worth inquiring about the possibility.

Why it wouldn’t work: Provided Dion Lewis is back to something close to 100 percent (and other backs like James White, Brandon Bolden and Tyler Gaffney are part of the mix), Ridley would be a part of a group if he was back in New England. Basically, if he’s completely over the knee issues, he might be more inclined to work as a solo artist somewhere else instead of being part of a running back by committee. There could also still be some residual feelings on both sides regarding Ridley’s 2013 benching for ball security issues.

Our take: It’s a long shot for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s questionable as to how much explosiveness he’ll have left because of the 2014 knee injury. But if he’s healthy, it makes sense for the Patriots to at least gauge his interest in a potential return. We’re not saying it’s going to happen, but for a team that is interested in a boost at running back, Ridley would certainly come cheaply, and the fact that the franchise knows his background also works in his favor. Besides, the Patriots need a guy in the locker room with moon boots and onesies again.

Read More: 2016 Free Agent Snapshot, Stevan Ridley,
Stevan Ridley coming back from ACL has been ‘running around a lot’ for Jets 10.21.15 at 9:23 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley will try to rebound from a serious knee injury after signing with the Jets. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley will try to rebound from a serious knee injury after signing with the Jets. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Brandon LaFell isn’t the only player from the 2014 Super Bowl champs getting closer to playing in games.

Former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is coming off an ACL and an MCL tear in his right knee in Buffalo on Oct. 12, 2014.

It was a frustrating injury for Ridley, since just a week earlier, he had the longest rush of his career, running for 43 yards on one carry against the Bengals. in his career on October 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Most of all, Ridley’s injury all but meant the end of his career in New England as he was entering free agency at the end of the season. That didn’t keep the Jets from taking a flier on the 2011 third-round pick out of LSU.

The Jets signed the 26-year-old to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million, and an $80,000 signing bonus. On Wednesday, Ridley, like LaFell finally hit the practice field.

“He’€™s been running around a lot,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said in a conference call. “[Wednesday] was actually his first [day] he was cleared to practice. He ran around, just have to get him healthy and get him football shape. I’€™ll like to see more as he gets more practices under his belt.”

It might be a little more difficult for Ridley to get significant playing time right away on the run-heavy Jets offense. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell anchor a running attack that is tops in the NFL at 146 yards per game. Ivory is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns already.

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Checking in with some old Patriots at their new addresses 08.03.15 at 11:41 am ET
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Darrelle Revis left the Patriots for the Jets. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Darrelle Revis left the Patriots for the Jets. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

With the Patriots taking a day off from camp, that presents us with an opportunity to check in with eight of the players who were on the roster last year who have since moved on to new teams.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis: The Jets cornerback hasn’t taken any passive-aggressive shots at his old employer over the last few days. Instead, he’s been working with the rest of the rebuilt New York secondary over the course of the first few days of camp in Florham Park. The Jets’ Twitter feed provided some cool-looking Vines of some of the one-on-one drills between Revis and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Cornerback Brandon Browner: Browner, who turned 31 on Sunday, left the Patriots on good terms as a free agent over the offseason (he posted his championship ring and the nice note from Robert Kraft on Instagram last month), but the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder did reveal an intriguing nugget over the weekend: He told reporters that when the Patriots “asked me to take a pay cut, you know, it was time to get up out of there.” He projects as one of the two lead corners in the New Orleans defense for 2015.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: The longtime Patriot signed with the Texans in the offseason and figures to be one of the foundational elements of Houston’s defensive line. Wilfork revealed this week that his daughter Destiny agreed to allow her father to sign with the Texans was if she could meet J.J. Watt. Mission accomplished.

Running back Shane Vereen: While there was plenty of talk initially about potentially utilizing Vereen in more than just a third-down role, it appears now that he’s starting to settle in as the Giants‘ third-down option out of the backfield. Vereen said this week there are a number of similarities between the offense he was a part of in New England and what’s getting used to in New York.

Running back Stevan Ridley: The former Patriots back was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of Jets training camp. Ridley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last October against the Bills, has expressed optimism that he can get back on the field sooner rather than later, but at the same time, he said in June he does not want to create “false hope” regarding his health. Ultimately, the goal is to be back on the field for Week 1 of the regular season.

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Read More: Akeem Ayers, Brandon Browner, Darrelle Revis, Jonathan Casillas
Countdown to camp: Running backs 07.26.15 at 5:44 pm ET
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LeGarrette Blount heads into 2015 as the Patriots lead back. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount heads into 2015 as the Patriots lead back. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

As training camp approaches, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the wide receivers and moved on to the tight ends, offensive line and quarterback. Now it’s the running backs:

Depth chart (regular-season stats via Pro Football Reference): LeGarrette Blount (125 carries, 547 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 5 TDs with both Pittsburgh and New England), Brandon Bolden (28 carries, 89 yards, 3.2 yards per carry, 1 TD), Travaris Cadet (10 carries, 32 yards, 3.2 yards per carry; 38 catches, 296 yards, 1 TD with New Orleans), Tyler Gaffney (no stats in 2014), Jonas Gray (89 carries, 412 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 5 TDs), Dion Lewis (no stats in 2014), James White (9 carries, 38 yards, 4.2 yards per carry), James Develin (fullback — 3 carries, 5 yards, 1.7 yards per carry).

THREE THINGS WE KNOW

1. When it comes to the Patriots backfield, plug and play is still the rule. Despite the fact that they accounted for a sizable portion of the running game last year, New England let Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley walk in free agency. (The two combined for 42 percent of the rushing yards and 43 percent of the carries from 2014.) The idea of fungible running backs is nothing new around New England; over the last 10 seasons, six different backs (Gray, Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Corey Dillon) have led the Patriots in rushing yards — in that span, only the Cardinals, Browns and Saints have had more different backs lead their team in rushing than New England. The return of Blount (despite the fact that he’ll now miss the opener) would seem to guarantee that it will be seven in 11 seasons. However, if seniority in the system is any indication, it’s worth noting that after the departure of Vereen and Ridley, the senior member of the New England backfield — in terms of time in the system — is 25-year-old Brandon Bolden, who has played a grand total of 38 regular-season games with the Patriots. We’ve mentioned this before, but the only thing that’s constant about the state of the New England running game is change.

2. The Patriots will rotate their backs. In 2014, the Patriots became the first Super Bowl winner since the 1987 Redskins to have four different running backs finish with 40 carries or more in their championship season. (That was because of a combination of injury, scheme and personnel.) Things won’t be that dramatic in 2015, but history certainly suggests that New England will again go with what will best be described as a running back-by-committee. While Blount is going to be the closest thing the team has to a lead back, expect Jonas Gray to also get some reps when it comes to working between the tackles, in addition to special teams ace Brandon Bolden. Meanwhile, Cadet and White will get run as candidates to fill the third down job. Meanwhile, Gaffney and Lewis remain wild cards when it comes to predicting their potential production in 2015.

3. For a fullback, James Develin will get plenty of reps. While he will never pile up the gaudy numbers, the former Ivy Leaguer has carved out a nice niche for himself as a member of the New England offense, as the Patriots have become one of the few teams around the league that has relied on a fullback as a key piece of the puzzle. According to Pro Football Focus, Develin was fifth in the league among fullbacks in total snaps with 259, and he graded out as one of the best in the league when it came to both pass and run blocking.
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Read More: Brandon Bolden, Countdown to Camp, James White, Jonas Gray
Stevan Ridley: Patriots ‘made a mistake’ when it came to Deflategate 06.11.15 at 2:45 pm ET
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Former Patriot Stevan Ridley said Thursday that his old team “made a mistake” when it came to Deflategate.

Speaking with the media shortly after the end of the Jets offseason program, the running back — who left New England as a free agent in the offseason after four years with the Patriots to sign with the Jets — was asked about the ongoing scandal.

“They made a mistake,” Ridley told reporters who asked about the Patriots. “The best thing that can happen is that they deal with that on their own. That has nothing to do with the New York Jets, and this is where I am now. At the end of the day, the Super Bowl champs are the Super Bowl champs. The football is deflated or not, it took a lot of hard work to get there. I’m not saying they’re right; I’m not saying they’re wrong. But what I am saying is you can’t take away that they got that title.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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