The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t want LeGarrette Blount in 2014, so he found his place with the New England Patriots and won a Super Bowl. The Patriots didn’t want Blount in 2017, so he found a role with the Philadelphia Eagles and won a Super Bowl. The Eagles didn’t want Blount in 2018, and now the Detroit Lions are hoping they can be the next franchise to capitalize on the yard-churning tailback’s golden touch.
The Lions announced that they signed the eight-year veteran on Friday. It’s a one-year, $4.5 million deal, according to Ian Rapoport. The moves reunites Blount with current Lions coach and former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
The Lions, who had already brought in DeMarco Murray and Frank Gore for visits, were looking for veteran running back help. They’ve consistently had one of the worst ground games in the league and finished the 2017 season last in the NFL in both rushing yards and yards per attempt.
In the last decade-plus, Detroit’s best rushing season came in 2013, when it finished 17th in the league. That was also the only time in that span the Lions have had a 1,000-yard rusher (Reggie Bush ran for 1,006 yards that year).
What does Blount bring to the Lions?
The 31-year-old runner joins a platoon that already includes Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Tion Green, and Dwayne Washington. Blount is immediately the most accomplished of the bunch.
He’s worked best as a short-yardage hammer as a part of thick depth charts throughout an impressive career. The Lions will likely draft a running back this spring as well, but for now Blount is their top back.
Blount continues to put up big numbers despite hitting an age where many running backs are forced to consider retirement. He led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016, although that came on a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry.
He rebounded with a 173-rush, 766-yard performance (4.4 YPC) with the Eagles last season to prove he hadn’t yet lost a step. He was even better in the Super Bowl, where he ran for 90 yards and a touchdown to thwart his former team and bring Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title.
Both the Eagles and Patriots surrounded him with more dynamic runners who could have a bigger impact in the passing game, allowing Blount to do what he does best — crash through the line and punish would-be tacklers.
How much does Blount still have left?
Blount has always been much quicker than his 250-pound frame suggests, but his bruising running style was always a bit of an insurance policy to the step-sapping slowness that encroaches with age. Even if he’s not running the 4.5-second 40-yard dash time he was as a rookie, his ability to plow through arm tackles and drive back linebackers makes him a valuable weapon.
He’s also durable; in the last five seasons, he’s only missed three games due to injury.
He’s no longer a clear-cut No. 1 running back, but he’s an upgrade for the Lions and can contribute in the lead role or in a platoon.
He’s still a viable check-down option and a useful blocker, too. With 20 touchdowns and more than 1,900 rushing yards the past two seasons, that’s something he can offer that the Lions haven’t had in a long time.