The Patriots agreed to terms on a one-year deal with 29-year-old running back Lamar Miller on Monday, according to ESPN — a move that adds to their already crowded backfield.
Miller is the type of player New England loves: inexpensive, multi-dimensional and capable of proving the rest of the league should not have cast him aside.
Miller, coming off a torn ACL, will need to show he’s physically up to par in order to crack coach Bill Belichick’s rotation of running backs. But in terms of what he looks like near his peak, he’s miles ahead of everyone the Patriots have outside of James White, who plays a different backfield role. It should also be noted that 2018 first-round draft pick Sony Michel is out indefinitely with a foot injury.
So how might Belichick use Miller in an offense led by Cam Newton, not Tom Brady? There are several possibilities, assuming he resembles where he was two years ago, when he averaged 4.6 yards per carry with the Texans and racked up 1,136 all-purpose yards.
MORE: List of 2020 NFL opt-outs
For a team that’s losing a significant chunk of players to coronavirus-related opt-outs, the addition of Miller represents a rare boost.
Here’s a look at what fans should take from the Patriots’ move:
What does Lamar Miller’s contract look like?
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the deal is for one year and is still pending a physical. The exact value of the contract is not yet known.
Former Texans’ RB Lamar Miller and the Patriots reached agreement on a one-year deal, pending a physical, per @RosenhausSports.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 10, 2020
What does signing Lamar Miller mean for Sony Michel?
Michel has been a disappointment since New England used a first-round pick on him in 2018. After an injury-shortened rookie campaign in which he showed promise, he averaged 3.7 yards per carry last year and was considered average to below-average by more advanced metrics. Offseason foot surgery will limit the time he has on the field this year.
Still, Miller’s presence probably shouldn’t be seen as a threat to Michel. Miller is at the back end of his career and coming in on a one-year deal. Michel is 25 and under contract beyond 2020. While Michel needs to step up following his return to action, Miller at this point isn’t really relevant to him.
Will Lamar Miller ever start for the Patriots?
It would be useless to attempt to decipher what Belichick is thinking at any given moment, but it wouldn’t be surprising for Miller to have multiple games with at least a dozen carries. Outside of 2016, he has been a lead back averaging no more than 16 or 17 touches per contest, meaning he would never be used in an old-school workhorse role. As the run-oriented half of a pairing with a receiving back, though, he could certainly be designated the starter in 2020.
Why did the Patriots sign Lamar Miller?
Miller is a low-risk veteran presence who could compete for a significant role with a team in transition after the departure of Tom Brady. It might not work out, but there’s no real downside here.
Does Lamar Miller fit with James White?
James White fits with everyone, really, and his presence as a receiving back has no bearing on what Miller will provide. That said, Miller does give the Patriots a second super shifty option to attack defenses.
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