New England Patriots

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 26: Tyler Gaffney #36 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 2nd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In an offseason that has been full of reunions for the Patriots, arguably the most surprising one comes just days away from OTAs. On Thursday, the team signed running back Tyler Gaffney, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Gaffney was originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round out of Stanford in 2014. After he severely injured his knee during training camp, the Panthers attempted to waive him in order to place him on IR. However, he was claimed by the Patriots.

He would end up spending three years in New England, bouncing between the practice squad and IR. After missing the entirety of the 2014 and 2015 preseasons due to injuries, he was one of the Patriots’ main backs in the 2016 preseason, recording 152 yards on 35 carries, with one touchdown. Following that preseason he was signed to the practice squad. Gaffney ended up being promoted to the active roster for a week late in the season, but did not get on the field.

The Patriots released Gaffney before the 2017 season, and he briefly spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars before ending up on IR again. Following that season, Gaffney retired from football to resume a minor league baseball career that began in 2012. He was a two-sport athlete in college, and briefly played in the Pittsburgh Pirates system before being drafted into the NFL.

After playing one season in the minors, hitting .244 in Low-A, Gaffney returned to football. He worked out for the Houston Texans last summer, but did not receive a contact. A few months later, he was signed to the San Francisco 49ers practice squad for the final two weeks of the 2020 season, after which he was released. Now, the 30-year-old is set to be back in training camp with the Patriots.

Gaffney becomes the eighth running back on the Patriots roster, joining a group that remains mostly unchanged after success at the position last season. If he makes it to the preseason, he could end up with a heavy workload if the Patriots want to be cautious with Damien Harris and Sony Michel, who both dealt with injuries last season.

With the signings of Gaffney and safety Adrian Colbert on Thursday, the Patriots now have a full 90-man roster. They’ll be able to open a spot by officially processing Patrick Chung’s retirement, a move which could be on hold until June 1 for salary cap-related reasons.

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Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.