Over a week removed from a stunning loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, the Patriots offseason outlook is coming into focus. Unlike in years past, there seems to be much more uncertainty surrounding the team—real or not. One thing that is for certain is that running back, Dion Lewis is a free agent. Throughout his time in New England, he has been an integral part of the offense, when he is healthy, of course. Now, the Patriots must make a tough decision on the talented running back.

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After being out of football for two years, Lewis signed a future contract with the Patriots in December of 2014. A bit of an afterthought, Lewis made the team out of training camp the following season and quickly emerged as a dynamic player for the Patriots offense. His season, however, would come to an abrupt end after an ACL injury. Just a few months later, the Patriots season also came to an end in a loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.

Lewis returned for the stretch run in 2016, ultimately culminating in a Super Bowl Championship. As the season progressed, Lewis began to regain a bit of that elusiveness that made him a special player. In the Divisional Round against the Texans in 2016, Lewis scored three times, including a kick return in a convincing win. Their first-of-three that postseason.

This year,  Lewis was 100 percent healthy. Evident by the fact that he played 16 games for the first time in his entire career. Not only did he continue catching the ball out of the backfield (32 receptions for 214 yards and three touchdowns), Lewis became a go-to runner for the Patriots. By far a career high, Lewis totaled 896 yards on 180 carries this year. In particular, he was relied heavily upon to carry the rock through the latter half of the season.

The Patriots, generally, have the ability to plug and play any running back into their offensive game plan. However, Lewis is a special talent. Proven to be healthy over the last year and a half, he will undoubtedly have a number of suitors. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Lewis is seeking a contract in the range of $16-18 million over three years with a $10 million signing bonus.

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With that said, the Patriots are currently tight against the cap, with roughly $16 Million available. Now, that number will likely grow with the release of several players such as David Harris and Dwayne Allen. The issue is that Lewis is not the only key free agent for the Patriots to resign this offseason. Fellow running back, Rex Burkhead and Danny Amendola also highlight the Patriots soon-to-be free agents.

Given that this is likely Lewis’ last chance at a big payday, it is unlikely he will take a discount. And a discount is likely the only way Lewis remains a Patriots in 2018 and beyond.

– Ian Glendon is the Editor-In-Chief of Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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