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Rex Burkhead turns best season with Bengals into deal with the Patriots

The former Bengals back will continue his NFL career with the Patriots.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Rex Burkhead, a prime pick to be one of this year’s sleeper impact signings on the NFL free agent market, has signed with the Patriots. The four-year veteran will bring his dynamic offensive talents to New England in hopes of boosting the league’s 4th ranked offense.

Burkhead had the best season of his NFL career in his fourth year with the Bengals. He ran for 346 yards and a robust 4.6 yards per carry despite playing in a crowded backfield that also included Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. He earned 74 touches last fall after getting the ball only 13 times in his first three seasons as a pro.

He had to work to find a spot in Cincinnati’s rotation. He finished his college career at Nebraska by running for nearly 100 yards per game in his final two seasons with the Cornhuskers, but fell to 190th in the 2013 NFL Draft after failing to impress scouts at the Combine. He played in only one game as a rookie while acclimating to the pro game.

His second and third years in the NFL weren’t much more fruitful, but an injury to Bernard allowed him to assume a supporting role in the team’s offense last fall. He gave the team a solid change-of-pace back from Hill while providing a pass-catching presence for Andy Dalton. He caught 17 passes for 145 yards last fall, hauling in 85 percent of the passes that came his way.

That performance proved he can be a versatile weapon for his new team. Burkhead hasn’t showed off the skills of a No. 1 back, but his ability to create space and move the chains makes him a valuable situational player. Typically, the Patriots are able to get the most out of any player on their roster. It’ll be interesting to see how Burkhead fits into that mix.