Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Rahim Moore, Charles Clay, Jerry Hughes, Pernell McPhee, Orlando Franklin and Dane Fletcher. Today we’ll feature Roy Helu.
Position: Running back
Age: 26 (Dec. 7, 1988)
Weight: 215 pounds
The skinny: The running back has spent his first four seasons in the league with the Redskins, but a change of scenery might do Helu a world of good. After his rookie season where he ran for 640 yards on 151 carries, and also caught 49 passes for 379 yards, he hasn’t done much in his last three years partly because he’s shared duties with Alfred Morris. In 2012 he only played in three games because of Achilles and turf toe injuries. Although he was placed on season-ending injured reserve, he did bounce back in his last two seasons to not let the injuries affect his durability. He played in 16 and 14 games the last two seasons respectively — although he wasn’t as productive as in his rookie season.
Over the past two seasons Helu has totaled 490 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 73 passes for 728 yards and two touchdowns. Helu’s strength is catching passes out of the backfield, something not many running backs can do. Helu has also played on special teams throughout his career, adding to his potential value.
By the numbers: 11.4 – Average yards per catch for Helu in 2014, a very impressive number for a running back.
Why it would work: With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to become free agents, the Patriots could potentially be in need of a running back, especially a veteran as they have LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney already on their roster, but besides Blount all will be entering either their first or second year in the league. Coach Bill Belichick always seems to find a veteran at each position at a low cost to bring in during training camp and see how things work out. With the three running backs currently on the roster all very young in age, bringing in a veteran as opposed to filling the need through the draft might be the better route to go. Also, with Helu’s experience on special teams and how much Belichick values that, it’s just another reason he could be appealing to the Patriots.
Why it might not work: Helu and Morris worked well in Washington complementing each other, with Morris getting the bulk of the carries and Helu being more of a third down back to catch passes out of the backfield. The Redskins could be inclined to bring him back, thus keeping him off the market. Also, Helu might want to go to a place where he will get more carries, and New England with the way they don’t usually feature one back, might not be a place Helu would want to play because he could get more carries elsewhere.
Quote: “I’m very excited, because it’s the first time I’ve gone into an offseason where I guess I get to see what else is out there and I’m not restricted to a rookie pay scale. There’s great possibilities out there that I’ll probably look into for the benefit of my family’s future. But, at the same time, I had a great experience these last four years. If I’m back, that’d be amazing. It’s two parties that would have to get together and have a common goal in mind.” — Helu on his impending free agent status.
Our take: Everything with the Patriots and their running back situation depends on Ridley and Vereen. If they bring either of them back, it would seem very unlikely the team would be in the market for a running back at all. If they don’t bring either of the two back, then they would be one of the teams most interested in a running back, particularly one who has a good amount of experience in the league. Helu wouldn’t be a player who costs a lot of money — he just finished his rookie contract where he made an average yearly salary of $627,563 — so this shouldn’t prohibit the Patriots from being in the running. He will seemingly be seeking more than what he made last year, but could be on a one or two year, low-money deal for a way to prove himself into earning a bigger one in the coming years. If the Patriots are indeed in need of a veteran running back, especially one who can catch passes out of the backfield, Helu might be their guy.