The rich are getting richer — and more versatile.
The Patriots announced Tuesday the signing of former Bengals running back Rex Burkhead.
New England coach Bill Belichick places a premium on versatile players with special teams ability. Burkhead not only led Cincinnati’s special teams coverage last season, but also outplayed Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard out of the backfield.
Burkhead closed out the 2016 season by rushing for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 27 carries in a 27-10 victory over the Ravens. A darling of the advanced metrics crowd, he’s an effective runner with natural enough receiving skills to spend time in the slot.
The 26-year-old was ranked No. 72 on Around The NFL’s list of the Top 101 free agents.
Although Burkhead’s skill set might seem a tad redundant with James White and Dion Lewis on the roster, both of those scat backs are entering contract years. It’s quite possible that the Patriots view Burkhead as a souped-up version of Brandon Bolden, the special teams ace capable of filling any backfield role in a pinch.
In other words, the addition of Burkhead does not fill the power-back void that would be created if LeGarrette Blount signs elsewhere after an 18-touchdown season in 2016.
With the additions of Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Burkhead on offense, the Patriots are building an even stronger roster than the one that captured the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LI.