Look Bill, I don't care how successful we've been in the past with this philosophy. The Patriots, without a doubt, NEED a running back that is more useful than just catching passes next season. Whether we get one in the draft, or sign one this off-season, the Pats need a guy who can take some of the pressure off of TB12 and keep him from taking a ton of hits per game.
Obviously the O-Line is to blame for most of the hits, but lets also pin the running backs for contributing next to nothing once Dion Lewis went down. We don't need a star running back, but Steven Jackson-Dion Lewis-James White isn't going to keep Brady from taking a ton of hits next season. And, going into his age 39 season, TB12 cannot be taking a ton of hits.
So here are a few options the Pats can look at to fill their hole at running back.
1. Matt Forte (218 attempts, 898 yards, 4 TDs in 13 games for Chicago)
"It's not about the money, I just want to be in the Super Bowl." Matt Forte absolutely screams New England. As we all know, the Pats love to play Moneyball and only spend big money when they absolutely HAVE to. Which is all the more reason why you have to love Tom Brady taking pay cuts, leaving him at 63rd in the league for annual salary.
Back to Forte, however, he was hurt for much of the season. Although he played 13/16, he wasn't 100% for the majority of those games. The 2x Pro-bowler brings speed, as well as strength to a rather weak New England backfield. Even better, the fact that all he wants to do is win can get him in at a pretty cheap price. Obviously not low-balling him, but we could snag him at a cheaper price than some other teams could. Not to mention he fits the bill as another guy on the Pats offense who isn't a first rounder.
2. Alfred Morris (202 attempts, 751 yards, and 1 TD in Washington)
It was a bit of a down year for Alfred Morris last year, to say the least. The Redskins O-Line was awful for most of the season and Morris wasn't getting consistent carries due to the emergence of Matt Jones. Due to his down year, Alfred could be another Patriots beauty that we could get for cheap.
Like Forte, Morris brings some speed along with some quality strength. But Morris, 27, is a bit younger than Forte, 30, and could be valuable for more than just a couple of years. I could see Morris being in New England for a solid three-five years and being pretty damn effective in the meantime.
3. Arian Foster (63 attempts, 163 yards, and 1 TD in only 4 games w/ Houston)
Arian Foster had a bad year in more ways than one. He was hurt all season, only playing the first four games. But while he played, he was nowhere near his usual, Pro-Bowl self.
And yes, I said Pro-Bowl self. Arian Foster is a 4x Pro-Bowler with Houston (10-12, 14) and ran for over 1,000 yards in each of those four seasons. The only problem is, of his seven years, he's only played more than 10 games in his four times. So, health is obviously a problem for Foster, making him expendable to the Texans, who saw some good things out of Foster's replacement, Alfred Blue. While the stats weren't there, Blue was available for all 16 games of the Houston season.
If Tom Brady is going to get his shot at his fifth ring next season, he's going to have to avoid taking north of 10 hits per game. With Solder coming back, that solidifies the left tackle position, allowing Sebastian Vollmer to return to his more comfortable spot at right tackle. So you've solved half the problem, removing Marcus Cannon from the field. If you add another RB that can take the bulk of the carries and take a breather when we need a pass, allowing King Dion to take the field, Brady is already in a safer position.
I put my full faith in Bill Belichick as the Pats go for 5 in the 2016-17 season.