The New England Patriots signed running back and former professional baseball player Tyler Gaffney, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Gaffney joins a very crowded running back room in Foxboro.
Gaffney had a preseason run with the Patriots that ran on and off again from 2014 to 2017. He’s never appeared in a regular-season NFL contest but has spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.
Gaffney had a stellar college career at Stanford. The 6’1″ running back ran for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2013.
However, he’s now 30 years old, which is not ideal for a running back. What can he possibly provide for the Patriots?
What Can Tyler Gaffney Provide the Patriots?
If we’re sincere, Gaffney making the Patriots’ Week 1 roster would be one of the more noteworthy stories of the early part of the 2021 season.
New England already has Damien Harris, Sony Michel, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, James White, J.J. Taylor, and the returning Brandon Bolden. Michel could be traded or released since the Patriots didn’t pick up his fifth-year option.
Even if New England moves on without Michel, Gaffney could still be the sixth running back on the roster. If New England has plans to drop Bolden, or the diminutive Taylor, Gaffney’s chances of making the roster might look a little better.
There’s always the possibility of an injury, and that’s part of the reason teams sign guys like Gaffney. Nonetheless, Gaffney would appear to have an uphill battle ahead of him.
Tyler Gaffney’s Most-Likely Landing Spot
If Gaffney does make the team in any way, it’s likely to be as a member of the practice squad. He is older, and he’s been around NFL teams for nearly a decade. Gaffney’s leadership could be helpful to a young player who perhaps has more of a future or a better chance to land on the field down the road.
Back in 2016, Bill Belichick had nothing but positive things to say about Gaffney after he was re-signed. The picture he paints in the quote below lauds Gaffney’s toughness. The detail and rare passion Belichick gives off in his description of Gaffney suggests he’s a favorite of the future Hall-of-Famer.
Tyler — he’s a smart guy, very team-oriented. If you ask him to do something, he’s going to give you a great look. There’s nobody that takes more punches than he does. He must get punched in the stomach 10 times a day. The defense is trying to take the ball out. That’s his role. That’s his job. But they’re slapping at the ball, they’re pulling at it, they’re trying to punch it. Half the time they miss. He does a great job.
Because of this, there will likely be no misunderstanding about Gaffney’s role, nor his realistic chances of making the team.