What do the Patriots lose with Heath Evans agreeing to terms with the Saints?
A little bit of everything, really.
Evans (6-0, 250) is a solid teammate, an effective lead blocker, occasional ball-carrier, effective pass-catcher, and special teams presence.
Call him a back-of-all-trades.
The Patriots presumably wanted Evans to return, but were likely only willing to extend themselves to a certain point. The Saints stretched them to an area they must have not wanted to go.
Evans never missed a game in his three-plus year stint in New England, and played in 19 percent of the offensive snaps in 2008. His time here will probably be best remembered by what he accomplished in 2005 -- when he was signed mid-season as an unrestricted free agent and filled in as an emergency running back when the Patriots were banged up at the position. Playing against his former team (Dolphins), Evans rushed for 84 yards on 17 carries that day, while adding three receptions for 18 yards.
The Patriots have Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back. Because the Patriots are more of a one-back running team, they don't utilize a lead-blocking fullback regularly, although Evans offered them the flexibility to morph into a two-back attack (e.g. win over the Broncos Oct. 20).
The team kept five backs coming out of training camp last year. The question will be if the Patriots feel they need a lead-blocking presence like Evans in 2009 -- perhaps Green-Ellis could expand his duties -- or if they go away from that type of role.