Patriots running back Shane Vereen is poised to hit the open market next month, and a source tells Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald that Vereen is hopeful of landing a contract worth at least $5MM per year. Howe cautions that while Vereen may be aiming high as a starting point for negotiations, he’s far from a lock to land a deal worth that much annually.
Vereen, who turns 26 next month, had his best season in 2014, setting career-highs in rushing yards (391), receptions (52), receiving yards (447), and overall touchdowns (five). He was also a reliable target in the passing game for Tom Brady during the playoffs, recording 18 postseason receptions, including 11 in the Super Bowl.
Those numbers are fairly modest for a running back seeking $5MM annually, especially when taking into account that no free agent running back landed a salary that high a year ago. However, the Patriots’ running back usage is unconventional, and another team may envision a larger role for Vereen. Additionally, if DeMarco Murray‘s huge amount of touches in 2014 count against him, then Vereen’s relatively light workload should be a plus.
Still, an annual salary of more than about $3.5MM for Vereen would be a surprise. That was the going rate a year ago for players like Donald Brown, Toby Gerhart, and Darren Sproles. Danny Woodhead could also provide a point of comparison for Vereen, since he posted similar numbers to Vereen – and played a similar role – during his final year in New England. He received a two-year, $3.5MM contract from the Chargers, then eventually landed a two-year, $5.5MM extension. With the cap on the rise for the 2015 season, Vereen should do a little better in free agency than Woodhead, but a $5MM annual salary may be out of reach for the former second-round pick.
According to Howe, the Patriots and Vereen exchanged proposals last summer, but weren’t close enough to work out a deal. The team will have some decisions to make at the position this winter, with Stevan Ridley also eligible for free agency.