As the free agent market thins out for fullbacks, the number of players available to replace the departed Marc Edwards in New England is falling. One name that has been thrown about of late is that of former Seahawk Mack Strong.
But according to agent Brooks Henderson, there has been little interest in Strong from the Patriots, a common situation for fullbacks in the free agent market. Despite what has seemingly been a "hot" offseason for fullbacks, many teams still put the position at the bottom of their list of needs. While a number of higher profile fullbacks like Richie Anderson, Rob Konrad and Lorenzo Neal were taken off the market relatively quickly, the remaining guys are in limbo waiting for the few jobs that remain.
"I spoke with Scott [Pioli] a couple of times, but they just seem to be in a holding pattern at the fullback position," Henderson said. "I think they are just trying to get the top free agent positions filled first and unfortunately the fullback position doesn't get a lot of respect in free agency."
While Strong has had contact with the Patriots, Bengals and made a visit to Atlanta early this week, the only real offer he has is with his former team. Henderson said that Seattle has a one-year deal for minimum money on the table for Strong, but both player and agent are looking optimistically for a three-year deal that would bring some security.
In nine NFL seasons, all with Seattle, Strong has played in 132 games with 64 starts. The 6-4, 245-pound back has put up rather typical and unremarkable fullback type numbers with 103 career carries for 358 yards and three touchdowns. He has 108 career receptions for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a starter for the better part of the last three years, Strong led the way for two 1,000-yard seasons for Shaun Alexander and one for Ricky Watters.
Those types of numbers aren't enough though to garner much attention on the free agent market. Henderson believes that many teams simply wait as long as they can and fill in a veteran fullback at the last minute.
"Maybe [the Patriots] are looking to wait and sign a guy for the veteran minimum later in free agency," Henderson speculated. "I don't know if that is the best route for teams to take, but we'll just have to wait and see."
Regardless of how the Patriots fill the vacant fullback slot, the limited fullback market still leaves options available. With veterans like Strong, Sam Gash, Cecil Martin and Brad Hoover still out there, the team could go the veteran free agent route. With 11 picks in the upcoming draft the team could use a second-day draft selection on a fullback or fullback-type player.
An outside option could be two players currently with the team, J.R. Redmond or Patrick Pass. Both players have a certain level of athleticism and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. They each have experience in Charlie Weis' system and would likely be able to get the job done in passing downs. The only question with this option would be the lack of a guy to smash heads between the tackles and lead the way for a powerful Antowain Smith running game, as neither player is overly big nor a dominating blocker.
So while in many regards it may seem that there are fewer and fewer options for the Patriots at fullback, there are still options. Not only are there still veterans available at the position, there likely will be for some time. The agents and players may not like it, but fullback is not one of the real glamour positions in free agency and as it sits right now demand is pretty low.