The book’s closed on LeGarrette Blount’s career as a Patriot but tallying the cost-benefit of his acquisition and departure will continue.
In the short run, the Patriots nailed it with the Blount deal last April.
They sent Jeff Demps -- an undrafted speed merchant who wasn’t really sure he wanted to play football -- to Tampa in exchange for Blount. The Patriots also sent Tampa a seventh-round pick.
Blount gave the Patriots plenty. He was the most dependable Patriots back in 2013 considering the fumble issues of Stevan Ridley and the injured wrist of Shane Vereen. Blount ran for 772 yards in the regular season then added 166 and four TDs in the Divisional Playoff win over Indy.
He was a surehanded kickoff returner and -- despite howls of protest he was too plodding for the job -- broke some big ones because, once he changed gears, he was a rare combo of shifty, fast and thundering.
He was good to have around. And with both Ridley and Vereen entering the final years of their rookie contracts, Blount seemed good insurance if either or both fled after this season.
But the two-year, $3.85 million deal the Steelers dangled for Blount (including a modest $950,000 signing bonus) was enough to bring Blount aboard. Blount will make $2.975 million in salary the next two seasons with Pittsburgh.
The Patriots spent $683,850 for Blount’s work in 2013. A great rate. If they wanted to beat out Pittsburgh and went to $4 million for two more years of Blount’s service, they’d be paying out a little more than $1.5 million per year for the seasons of 2013-2015
It doesn’t seem like much, does it?
Especially when Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are making $777,750 and $846,975 in salary this year. The Patriots could have had three better-than-average backs with disparate and complementary skills for about the same amount they’ll pay out to Danny Amendola this year.
And they’d be ensured of having at least one back under contract for 2015 if Vereen and Ridley decide to find dough elsewhere when their contracts expire. Now, either of those players -- both superior to Blount in some ways -- can enter negotiations knowing the Patriots are over a minor barrel in the running back department.
Perhaps it’s a case of “easy come, easy go.” The Patriots gave up a guy who thought he wanted to run track (Demps) in exchange for Blount and that seventh-rounder. Blount was found money for the Patriots and spent just as quickly.
Even if Demps turns into Devin Hester 2.0 in Tampa, it doesn’t reflect poorly on the overall deal made by the Patriots, just as Blount’s work for the Patriots shouldn’t have reflected poorly on the Bucs and GM Mark Dominik.
Demps wasn’t on board with football. Moving him for a player like Blount -- who’d reached the end of his rope with the Bucs -- was the sensible play.
The X-factor for Tampa -- and the shrewd aspect of the deal on their part -- was flipping that Patriots pick to Minnesota so that the Bucs could move up in the sixth round to take University of Miami running back Mike James. James showed well for the Bucs as the beefy backup to Doug Martin last season until James broke an ankle.
And Lovie Smith says he’s excited to coach Demps this year. Which is awesome.
The loss of Blount could well wind up a footnote. Good player, good guy, good luck, goodbye. Or the Patriots could end up wishing they chose differently.
That’s the nature of the business, though. Decisions are constant and anyone afraid to make them because of future risk isn’t cut out for the job.