The New England Patriots news hit the wire rapid fire on Friday.
First came the news from Ben Volin of The Boston Globe that starting center Ryan Wendell has signed a two-year deal worth up to $4.55 million to stay with the Patriots. Just minutes later, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reported that running back LeGarrette Blount signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sharing some thoughts on both signings:
- It was later clarified by ESPN's Field Yates that Wendell's deal will pay him a maximum of $4.55 million, as there was initially a misprint in the NFLPA records.
- At an average of up to $2.275 million, Wendell could potentially make enough per year to put him near the top 10 average salaries at center.
- Wendell is still set to be the Patriots' starting center, but on just a two-year deal, the Patriots aren't tied down to him for a long time. They could be looking for their long-term starting center as early as this year's draft.
- The Patriots love consistency on the offensive line, and this will be the third straight year in which the Patriots will field the same starting five offensive linemen in Week 1.
And some thoughts on Blount:
- The Patriots have some long-term questions at running back, with both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley set to become unrestricted free-agents in 2015. Brandon Bolden will be a restricted free-agent, which makes him easier to retain. Depending on what happens from here, the Patriots could be looking at a brand new backfield as early as next March.
- Blount was a solid contributor for most of the season, but most of his production came at the end. Before the final two games of the season, Blount was averaging eight carries per game, 36 yards per game, and 4.5 yards per carry. In the final two games of the season, he had 20 carries per game, 132 yards per game, and 6.6 yards per carry.
- Ridley began the 2013 season as the bell cow, but he lost that role when Ridley had trouble holding onto the ball (four fumbles in 2013). For now, it looks like he will get that role back unless the Patriots view Vereen or Bolden as a potential feature back. There's also the possibility that the Patriots could draft someone to compete with Ridley, with an eye toward building for the future in the backfield.