10:35am: The Pats have officially confirmed the signing of Blount.
9:19am: Blount’s new deal can be worth up to $2.35MM, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, who tweets that the running back can earn up to $1.6MM with incentives in 2015.
7:52am: Former Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount wasn’t claimed off waivers yesterday like Ben Tate, but it didn’t take Blount long to find a new home. Josina Anderson of ESPN.com first reported this morning (via Twitter) that Blount was visiting the Patriots’ facility and was expected to sign with the team, and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) has since confirmed that the back is signing a two-year deal with New England.
Per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links), Blount’s new two-year contract with the Patriots will be a minimum-salary pact, but one laden with incentives. The 27-year-old, who rumbled for 166 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game against the Colts last year for the Pats, will officially sign his deal this morning, a source tells Wilson.
Blount signed with the Steelers in March and entered the 2014 season expecting to share the workload in Pittsburgh with Le’Veon Bell. However, Bell has emerged as one of the top backs in the NFL this year and relegated Blount to backup duty — the former Buccaneer and Patriot carried the ball just 65 times for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and on Monday night left the field early during Pittsburgh’s game against the Titans, leading to his release.
The timing of the signing is interesting for the Patriots, who saw unheralded running back Jonas Gray run for more than 200 yards on Sunday night against Indianapolis. The move isn’t necessarily an indictment of Gray, who should still see plenty of action this season — rather, it reflects, the Patriots’ desire for flexibility, considering the team’s offensive game plan changes significantly from game to game. In Gray, Blount, and Shane Vereen, among others, the Pats now have several backs with different running styles.
It’s not clear yet if any of the Pats’ current running backs will be cut in the corresponding move when Blount’s signing becomes official, but if the club keeps all its backs on the roster, it will have Brandon Bolden and James White to go along with Gray, Blount, and Vereen, with Stevan Ridley on injured reserve. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out (via Twitter), Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden are all eligible for free agency at season’s end, and with Blount signing a multiyear deal, none of those potential free agents is guaranteed to still be a Pat next season.