Free agent analysis: Will Blount cash in?

Free agent analysis: Will Blount cash in?
February 4, 2014, 1:15 pm
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This week, Tom E. Curran continues his examination of the Patriots’ potential free agents. Today: LeGarrette Blount. Tomorrow: Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher.

No Patriot was more glowingly praised by Bill Belichick than LeGarrette Blount was at the end of this season.
 
Part of the appreciation was probably linked to the fact Blount did his job brilliantly for a relatively low wage.
 
In fact, when the Patriots dealt for Blount about 40 days after he signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Patriots, Belichick sliced Blount’s 2013 pay down to $680,000.
 
Gone was the $350,000 workout bonus he had. Halved was the $1.25 million base salary.
 
So far in his four-year career, Blount’s earned $1.945 million in salary. More than many of us, to be sure, but as low as you can be paid over four NFL seasons.
 
Blount becomes a free agent in about a month. Does he cash in on the momentum he built with his end-of-season exploits (48 carries, 357 yards and six touchdowns in Week 17 and the Divisional playoffs)? Does he stay in New England, a workplace that obviously agrees with him?
 
Blount just turned 27. The shelf life for NFL running backs isn’t great and Blount, being a bigger back, may have an even shorter span because the quickness he currently has that complements his bulk may decline.
 
The counter to that is that Blount has been used very sparingly over his career. He’s carried the ball just 579 times in four seasons. So a franchise wanting a big back that’s gone through growing pains, disuse and having his maturity maligned and still has tread on his tires would be looking for a guy like Blount.
 
If the Patriots don’t try to sew him up.

Blount owes it to himself and future Blounts to make as much money as possible during the blink-of-an-eye NFL career he’s in the midst of. But the Patriots can make Blount a long-time earner on a very good team as a bit player.
 
Or Blount may be able to find a more prominent role and better short-term money somewhere else.
 
The decision on Blount won’t be made in a vacuum. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will both be free agents after the 2014 season. Ridley -- who will make less than $800,000 in 2014 -- could definitely be a player who is lavished with free-agent attention. Vereen probably will be as well.
 
With that in mind, the Patriots probably need to protect themselves from losing Blount this year and both of the other guys next year. Look for them to get Blount re-signed.