The Patriots are adding to their backfield depth by signing former Jets and Jaguars running back James Robinson to a two-year contract, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
One of New England's top in-house free agents is fourth-year running back Damien Harris, and this move signals that the Patriots might be pivoting to Robinson as Rhamondre Stevenson's top backup. The Pats typically load up on depth at the position, with Robinson fitting in an early-down role while adding more in the passing game than you'd expect for a 220-pound back.
Last season, Robinson accumulated 425 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 110 carries that were split between Jacksonville and New York. Now three seasons removed from a 1,000-yard campaign in 2020 with the Jags, Robinson was traded to the Jets in late October and was released heading into free agency this offseason.
Although Robinson wasn't as productive during the 2022 season, he was coming off a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 16 of the 2021 season. Theoretically, he should be closer to his pre-Achilles tear self this season.
Robinson flashes a good feel for finding inside rushing lanes, lateral quickness to jump out of tackles to make it through the line of scrimmage, and contact balance to run through defenders.
The Pats newest running back also caught 80 passes in his first two seasons. Robinson would flex out in Jacksonville's empty packages to run routes at times, is a useful screen back, and was challenging to bring down in space due to his lateral cuts as a ball carrier, while being reliable on check downs. He's not a pure receiving back in the James White mold, but he offers some production in the passing game nonetheless.
Robinson brings a hard-nosed work ethic and consistently gets the job done when given the opportunity despite a modest athletic profile entering the league. The Jaguars attempted to replace him several times with Travis Ettiene and others, but Robinson continued to be the best ball carrier on Jacksonville's roster until this past season and outperformed more hyped talent.
New England gravitates towards dependable and tough runners who churn out yards in their power/gap system, with Robinson as the latest prototypical downhill runner to join the Patriots. He joins former Chiefs wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster as the second skill player addition for the Patriots on Wednesday, the first official day of NFL free agency.
Robinson will fit nicely in a running back room that already includes more dynamic backs like Rhamondre Stevenson and Pierre Strong.