FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Free-agent running back Dion Lewis intends to sign a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The pact has a maximum value of $23 million and includes $11.5 million in guarantees, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
That is a nice haul for Lewis, and it falls into a similar category as Danny Amendola’s reported two-year agreement with the Dolphins: While the New England Patriots would have liked to have Lewis back, they had a certain role in mind — and a financial figure to go with it — and the Titans trumped it.
There are usually no hard feelings from the team in that regard. That’s just business.
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Likewise from the player’s perspective; in this case, Lewis has already thanked the Patriots for believing in him when most other teams didn’t in 2015.
Here are a few thoughts on the trickle-down effect of Lewis departing for Tennessee:
1. This was the best chance for Lewis, 27, to land one big payday. The free-agent market isn’t always kind to running backs, but this is the life-altering deal Lewis had to be hoping for. His strong 2017 season — in which he didn’t elevate to the lead role at running back until Week 7 — put him in position to earn it.
2. Lewis tore his ACL in 2015 and then had a setback in his recovery that cost him the first half of the 2016 season. That, coupled with prior injuries (e.g. broken leg in 2013), had to be a consideration for any team that was considering signing Lewis to a big contract. The Titans, perhaps looking at a 2017 season in which Lewis went wire to wire and missed only one practice, are showing strong confidence in his ability to stay healthy for the long haul.
3. It’s hard to believe that the Patriots didn’t have that injury history in mind when they invested in free agents Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead last offseason, giving both deals that averaged slightly more than $3 million per season. Lewis, meanwhile, was entering the final year of a two-year extension that averaged $1.5 million per season, with a chance to increase to $2.5 million per season if incentives were reached. Lewis opened the 2017 season as the fourth option on the depth chart before making an impressive charge. Prior to that, some in the media were speculating as to whether he’d be cut or traded, which also reflects how media perceptions have since shifted.
4. The Patriots have Gillislee and James White under contract at running back and could still re-sign Burkhead, depending on how the market develops for him. On top of that, the club hasn’t selected a running back in the draft since 2014, missing out on some promising prospects at the position who went after the first round. One figures the Patriots will take a long look at this year’s draft class, which is considered deep.