New England Patriots

Sony Michel became one of the last rookies in the NFL to sign his first contract, and the last piece of the New England Patriots’ 2018 draft class to put ink to paper, when he finally agreed to terms on his rookie deal on Sunday.

Now, the full details of the contract are known, thanks to sources for Spotrac and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, who was first to report the numbers on Monday. Michel is signed for four years and up to $9,626,694, which includes a $5,081,232 signing bonus, according to Volin. However, he and Spotrac differ on the guaranteed money; Volin says $8,389,710 is fully guaranteed, while Spotrac has it at $7,353,964. Volin’s number is based on 87.15 percent guaranteed for the deal with Michel, the 31st overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Michel’s signing bonus will make him the highest-paid running back on the Patriots in 2018, based on total cash spending. He’ll make $5,561,233 as a rookie. Compare that to a maximum of $4,312,500 for Rex Burkhead, $2,181,250 for Mike Gillislee, $1,437,500 for James White, and $1,331,250 for Jeremy Hill. Veteran special teamer Brandon Bolden and undrafted rookie Ralph Webb are also on the running back depth chart heading into the start of training camp on Thursday.

(L-R) New England Patriots running backs Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, and James White (Photo credits: Brian Fluharty/Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

(L-R) New England Patriots running backs Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, and James White (Photo credits: Brian Fluharty/Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

In 2019, however, Michel drops to third among Patriots running backs with a base salary of $917,557, compared to $3 million in salary and bonuses for White and $2.25 million for Burkhead. The Patriots are projected to slide to 10th-most spent on running backs with Michel’s signing bonus off the (real money) books and prorated against the cap.

The Patriots’ cash spending on the full roster of running backs tops $16.2 million in 2018, ranking them third-highest in the NFL, per Spotrac. They’re behind only the New York Giants ($27 million), who just drafted Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have Le’Veon Bell on the books for a $14.5 million franchise tag.

New England ranked fourth in running back spending in 2017, while seven of the top-8 teams made the playoffs. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles ranked 13th. So while it may not seem like running back should be a contender’s most expensive positional group, there’s a bit of a recent correlation between spending at that position and winning.

England Patriots rookies punter Corey Bojoquez (71), wide receiver Braxton Berrios (55), running back Ralph Webb (68), and running back Sony Michel (51) walk to the practice field during organized team activities at Gillette practice fields. Photo credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

England Patriots rookies punter Corey Bojoquez (71), wide receiver Braxton Berrios (55), running back Ralph Webb (68), and running back Sony Michel (51) walk to the practice field during organized team activities at Gillette practice fields. Photo credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The same connection can’t quite be made in 2015 and 2016, but the past year could be signaling a turn back toward running backs as premier offensive weapons. Smaller defenses and an increased focus on stopping high-flying passing attacks could cause a comeback for the ground game – and especially, more action for runners catching passes out of the backfield. The Eagles abused the Patriots in Super Bowl LII with their backs, whether on the ground with LeGarrette Blount or through the air with Corey Clement.

Michel has the potential to be a three-down target for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. He should eventually lead the Pats’ stable of backs. It may not necessarily happen this season, but it’ll be on the team to justify the resources they’ve allocated to the position as a whole.

If last season’s success for other rookie backs on playoff teams is any indication, Michel’s eventual emergence could make a real difference in Foxboro.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.