The New England Patriots made two tough roster decisions on Monday, and one will “likely” lead to the end of the line for a Super Bowl champion.
The Patriots chose to pick up the fifth-year option for offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn but are expected to decline the same alternative for running back Sony Michel, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
The #Patriots have picked up the fifth-year option for OL Isaiah Wynn, while they’ll likely decline the option for RB Sony Michel.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 3, 2021
Wynn, a first-round pick in 2018, is expected to be the team’s starting left tackle, as he was in 2020. Wynn has struggled to stay healthy during his two years in the NFL. He missed all of 2018 with injury and was out for eight and six contests in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Still, the Patriots seem to believe in the 25-year-old’s upside, and he figures to be a key contributor on a rebuilt offensive line that includes Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason.
Michel doesn’t appear to be a part of the Patriots’ long-term plan.
Sony Michel’s Patriots Legacy
Like Wynn, Michel was drafted in the first round in 2018. He led the team in rushing from 2018-19, but he missed seven games in 2020 due to injury and COVID.
While he was on the shelf, second-year running back, Damien Harris stepped up and took the starting running back position. Harris had his health issues in 2020 as well, missing six games. However, he managed to rush for 691 yards averaging five yards per carry.
Harris’ production and age (24) make it easier to move on from Michel.
While Michel’s likely release could sting, he did help the Patriots win a Super Bowl during his rookie season. Michel ran well in 2020 when he was active, rushing for 449 yards in nine games, a 5.7-yard-per-rush clip.
At 26, he should get another opportunity elsewhere.
Chowder and Champions’ Michael DeVito didn’t believe the Patriots should pick up Michel’s options, pointing to his lack of durability as the main reason.
“Sony Michel is an ok NFL back, but he too has had injury issues throughout his New England career,” DeVito wrote. “He’s played only 28 of 48 games as a Patriot. Better than Wynn’s tally but not good enough. Michel’s 4.3 yards per carry is decent, but he lacks explosiveness. He’s really not much of a long threat, and like all of the New England backs, he’s not decisive or productive in short-yardage. The entire stable of backs is/was wracked with injuries. The team couldn’t count on them from game to game. It has to be frustrating for the coaches and the quarterback, whoever he is.”
“He” will be Cam Newton to start, and we’ll see how things end.
Michel’s Departure Would Open the Door For Powerful Rookie RB
The Patriots drafted Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson in the third round, and Michel’s potential release could open the door for him to share carries with Harris in 2021.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said this about Stevenson before the draft.
A one-year starter at Oklahoma, Stevenson was a natural fit in head coach Lincoln Riley’s offense, thriving in his zone-blocking scheme. After not playing football for a year after high school and spending two seasons at the JUCO level, he rose to the top of the Sooners’ depth chart, leading the team in rushing in the six games he played in 2020 after returning from his failed drug test suspension. Stevenson moves like a much smaller back, displaying the lower-body agility to hit the cutback lane or navigate between gaps without gearing down. While he is a gliding athlete for a big man, he needs to consistently play up to his size as both a runner and blocker. Overall, Stevenson has a track record of inconsistency, but he is built for the pro game with the smooth footwork to collect, cut, and accelerate. He projects best as a one-cut runner with pass-catching promise.
Stevenson puts you in the mind of former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. He’s 5’11” and weighs 231 pounds, so he has plenty of weight and power to be a tough inside runner.
His style could be an excellent complement for Harris’ more speedy approach.