The Patriots finally made a big offensive addition on Monday, inking veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott to a one-year deal. Targeting Zeke made a ton of sense for New England, who had both money to spend and a hole to fill behind Rhamondre Stevenson after Damien Harris’ departure.
Current situation aside, however, it appears this move has been years in the making.
Former Pats RB James White appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio to discuss his old team adding Elliott. White provided some unique insight, as transcribed by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, saying head coach Bill Belichick has long admired the ex-Cowboy. Belichick even previously remarked that he wanted Elliott on his own roster when they faced Dallas before.
"“Whenever we would compete against (the Cowboys), he would always talk about how much he wanted to have him on his roster.”"
This is some interesting intel from White that paints a broader picture regarding Elliott’s recruitment to New England. It’d be no surprise if Belichick made it known to the running back how much he admires his game, which surely would’ve played a part in the team’s efforts to sign him.
Aside from watching him from afar, Belichick also had the chance to see Zeke’s talent up close a few time over the years. Elliott has played against the Pats twice since he entered the league in 2016, both of which saw him and the Cowboys go on the road.
In the first matchup in 2019, Elliott turned 21 carries into a healthy 86 yards while adding another 4 receptions for 40 yards through the air. Then in 2021, Zeke recorded 69 yards on 17 attempts, plus an impressive 50 receiving yards. It’s obvious he had no troubles getting going in late fall at Gillette Stadium, which hopefully is a sign of things to come for the entire 2023 campaign.
Considering how long Zeke took to land with a new team, it’s clear he took his free agency process seriously and weighed all of his options. The fact he landed on the Patriots, who are famous for their tight-run environment, speaks volumes about him as a player.
Hopefully the two sides are now able help one another return to their past success. New England hasn’t made it past the Wild Card round since the 2018 season, and the franchise missed the playoffs two time during that stretch.
Meanwhile, Elliott was once a league-leading rusher whose effectiveness has declined. The Pats obviously believe in his potential to help this offense, however, which could lead to a bounce-back year for the three-time Pro Bowler.
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