Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots already made one critical decision about running back Sony Michel this offseason.
The Patriots didn’t pick up Michel’s fifth-year option, meaning he’ll have an opportunity to hit free agency next year. In what has been an already busy offseason, Belichick’s next step should be trying to trade the former first-round running back.
Sony Michel could be entering his final year with the New England Patriots
The New England Patriots used the 31st overall pick on Sony Michel in the 2018 NFL draft and hoped he’d be a franchise running back for years to come.
That idea hasn’t quite gone to plan. Three years after entering the NFL, the former USA Today High School All-American may have played his final snap in New England. Injuries limited him to only nine games and 79 carries last year in the Patriots’ disappointing 7-9 season.
Michel ran for 2,292 yards and 14 touchdowns across the first 38 games of his Patriots career. He also hauled in 26 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown. Across four career playoff games, the former first-round pick has 397 rushing yards and six touchdowns — all of which came during the Patriots’ Super Bowl run after the 2018 season — to his name.
However, the Patriots appear open to moving in another direction. Damien Harris overtook Michel on the depth chart last year and is under contract through the end of the 2022 season.
The Patriots should try trading Michel before the season starts
If Bill Belichick and the Patriots find a suitor for Michel, they shouldn’t hold back in cutting him loose.
The former first-round pick will play all of the 2021 season at 26 years old and has shown an impressive ability to fight for every yard. He averaged 5.7 yards per attempt on only 79 carries in 2020.
One can argue those positives are why Belichick and the Patriots should keep Michel, who may be motivated to play at an elite level in a contract year. However, the Patriots appear committed to Harris, who averaged five yards per carry and led the team in rushing last year.
The Patriots also selected Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft. James White, the versatile all-purpose back, signed a new contract in March. That only leaves so many carries for Michel, who is young and talented enough to warrant an interesting return on the open market.
Which teams should try to trade for Michel?
In theory, Michel’s age, experience, and lack of financial commitment beyond the 2021 season should be enough to land the Patriots a fifth-round selection in the 2022 NFL draft. That would be a sensational return for Michel, who has had injury problems in the NFL.
Former Patriots backup quarterback Kliff Kingsbury now coaches the Arizona Cardinals. Although the Cardinals appear primed to give Chase Edmonds the lead back role in 2021, they could work Michel into the mix and give Kyler Murray a 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Although the Miami Dolphins still can use running back depth, trades inside the division are a rare sight in the NFL. However, the Patriots acquired wide receiver Isaiah Ford in a trade with the Dolphins last season, so there is precedent for moves between the two sides. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores is entering his third season as the Dolphins’ head coach.
One shouldn’t rule out the Detroit Lions either. Lions running back D’Andre Swift impressed in his rookie year but missed time with concussions. The team’s new regime may want to add another young and cheap running back if they are concerned about Swift’s professional future.
The New England Patriots open the 2021 season on Sunday, September 12, against Flores and the Dolphins. Only time will tell if Michel is on either sideline or if he’s in another state entirely.