The NFL free agency market is slowly but surely drying up, and we are starting to see some of the remaining veterans find new homes. The latest is running back LeGarrette Blount. After engaging in a stare-down with the New England Patriots, Blount has found a new home. The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Wednesday that he has signed a one-year deal.
Ian Rapoport is reporting the deal is worth up to $2.8 million, while Adam Schefter reported the Arizona Cardinals also expressed “mild interest.” Blount joins a backfield that includes Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and recently drafted fourth round pick Donnel Pumphrey. There is some talk Mathews might be released, but for now, that is the depth chart.
I bring this up because it got me thinking about the San Francisco 49ers backfield. The team entered the offseason with Carlos Hyde as the primary back. They signed Tim Hightower, drafted Joe Williams, and signed UDFA Matt Breida. Hyde has gotten the bulk of the work when healthy, but the new coaching staff coupled with the addition of Williams and Hyde hitting free agency after this season raises questions about his role.
Over at Niners Wire, Jerod Brown put together some interesting thoughts on where Hyde is best suited in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. We’ve heard plenty about Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner finding a lot of success with running backs in the middle and late rounds of the draft. As Brown pointed out, Williams brings home-run speed and elusiveness that impresses Shanahan and Turner. The idea being that Williams would be better suited for the feature role, while Hyde would take on more of the punishing complementary role.
The 49ers have used Hyde as their feature back the past two years. The change in coaching staff and the addition of Williams and Hightower would seem to suggest that will change in 2017. Hyde could very well end up with the most carries of the three players, but we’ll see a lot more rotation this season.