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Patriots' Jerod Mayo lauds Rhamondre Stevenson as 'one of the better backs in the league' amid contract talks

As a former fourth-round pick, Rhamondre Stevenson has done enough to earn an extension.

The running back believes he'll receive one soon, telling reporters Monday he's "pretty close" to reaching an agreement to stay in New England beyond 2024 before going into more detail on Monday's edition of The Insiders on NFL Network.

Stevenson received the desired vote of confidence from his new coach, Jerod Mayo, who didn't commit to a new deal for Stevenson, but spoke glowingly of the running back Monday.

"You know, we'll see. I will say this about Rhamondre," Mayo said Monday, via team transcript. "I think he's one of the better backs in the league, it's no doubt about it. I think over the last few years, it's been kind of tough on him, as far as getting started. So, I'm excited to see what he does this season. And look, he's earned everything that he gets. He is our starting running back and hopefully we do get something done."

Stevenson took the compliment in stride.

"It makes me feel good," he told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Senior National Columnist Judy Battista on The Insiders. "Just knowing I got my head coach behind me and all my teammates behind me, and it's something that I agree with. It's something that I've been working so hard for, so to see it come to fruition is great."

Just don't expect him to be paid lucratively.

Stevenson has proven to be a versatile back and a hard runner, displaying a physical style in racking up 2,265 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns over his first three seasons. He's managed to find a role as a pass-catcher, too, snagging 121 receptions for 782 yards and one receiving score between 2021 and 2023.

Stevenson even has a 1,000-yard season to his name, recorded in 2022. But that doesn't mean he's going to be paid like a feature back, with proof existing in how New England has approached its backfield composition over the last year.

In 2023, the Patriots took a flier on veteran Ezekiel Elliott (to the tune of one year and $3 million), and ended up giving the former Cowboys star more carries (184) than Stevenson (156), which was largely due to Stevenson finishing the season on injured reserve with an ankle injury. In 2024, the Patriots replaced Elliott with Antonio Gibson (via a three-year, $11.25 million deal), who can fill a similar role if they're attempting to create a two-headed backfield.

Both of those deals are unsurprisingly cheap, and while an extension for Stevenson will likely exceed those deals in terms of annual value, it could look similar to the deal Gibson signed in the spring.

We're living in an era of depressed value for running backs on the open market, which is a result of past feature backs burning out quickly and proving a long-term investment in a running back isn't the best business decision in most cases. This has prompted most of the league to shift toward committee backfields, attempting to blend different flavors to create a unit that is stronger as a whole than one star back, and also capable of potentially doing more.

That's precisely what New England appears to be interested in doing, with Stevenson as the primary figure, but not a significantly more important running back than the one behind him on the depth chart. It reminds us of the Patriot Way of old -- James White catching passes out of the backfield while LeGarrette Blount pounds it between the tackles -- even as the new regime makes New England more difficult to forecast.

With this in mind, Stevenson will fetch more than he's making on his rookie deal, which didn't exceed $1.2 million until this year (he's due to make $3.1 million in 2024). But unless he has a revelatory breakout season, his financial ceiling won't flirt with double digits. Only five running backs in the NFL are currently making $10 million or more per year.

One of those running backs is Cleveland's Nick Chubb, who has thrived under the direction of new Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

"Yeah, well honestly, I watch all running backs. The small ones, the bigger backs like myself. So, I take a little bit of everyone's game to be honest," Stevenson said when asked about studying Chubb's tape for reference. "Just seeing how the runs are hitting – outside zone – they're a heavy outside zone team in Cleveland, which we are bringing in over here now. So, just getting familiar with how it looks and how it's supposed to be ran and the patience on it. Yeah, Nick Chubb did a great job at it so that's a great person to watch."

If Stevenson does break out in a fashion similar to Chubb, it's in the Patriots' best interest to lock him up to an affordable rate now, helping explain the timing of a possible extension. And if that becomes reality for Stevenson, his coach's compliment won't just be praise -- it will be accurate.

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