Since the end of the 2012 season there were whispers that the Buccaneers were interested in trading running back LeGarrette Blount, and on Saturday, the final day of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Bucs shipped Blount to the New England Patriots in return for a seventh-round selection in this year's draft and the rights to former Gator speedster Jeff Demps.
Tampa Bay traded former starting running back LeGarrette Blount to New England in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2013 and the rights to Patriots running back Jeff Demps.
Demps was recently put on the trading block after expressing his desire to run track and play football as a professional.
“We have made a trade with the New England Patriots,” Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. “We have traded LeGarrette Blount for one of New England’s seventh-round draft choices and the rights to Jeff Demps. We’ve talked to Jeff a little bit; certainly we understand what he’s doing. We’re just taking the rights to see what happens.
“He obviously practiced down here in Tampa when the New England Patriots came down. He played in our game and had a good game against us and we’re going to walk and talk with him. But the reason was not Jeff Demps. Jeff Demps was part of it but not the reason. We were going to do LeGarrette Blount for a seventh-round pick but we asked for the rights to Jeff Demps because we want to investigate that further. So as an organization that was a team decision that we felt like was the best interest of our football team going forward, and that’s why we made the trade.”
The Buccaneers re-signed Blount in March to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. The fourth-year running back also has a $350,000 reporting bonus and a $150,000 workout bonus included in his contract. Tampa Bay did not tender Blount a restricted free agent contract offer. Instead, the team decided to sign him to a one-year deal without a tender offer with an eye on making a trade.
After rushing for a team-high 1,007 yards and six touchdowns on 201 carries (5.0 avg.) as a rookie, the 6-foot, 247-pound running back's output slipped in 2011 where he rushed for 781 yards and five scores on 184 carries (4.2 avg.). Blount fumbled the ball seven times in his first two years with the Bucs, and that prompted the team to draft Doug Martin in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
His best game last season came in Tampa Bay's 38-10 victory over Kansas City in which he carried the ball seven times for 58 yards (8.3 avg.), including a 35-yard touchdown run. However, over the next two weeks, Blount was far less successful, totaling 13 carries for 14 yards against Minnesota and New Orleans.
During the final eight games of the season, Blount only carried the ball six times for 30 yards.
The general feeling was that Blount was not an ideal fit in Mike Sullivan's offense, and the team remains concerned with his ability to be effective in the passing game, which limits his opportunities. In the past, Blount has struggled with pass protection assignments and had only one reception for two yards in 2012.
“I would say that, for us, LeGarrette is going into the final year of his contract, and for us as an organization, we’ve had LeGarrette here for a couple different staffs … all I can tell you is LeGarrette has been a good player for us. But we felt like as an organization, this was best for our football team,” Dominik said.
The Bucs were hot after Demps last summer and attempted to sign him, but he opted to join the Patriots instead. Demps played football and track at the University of Florida, and has expressed the interest in doing both as a professional. That prompted New England to trade him this offseason, as head coach Bill Belichick wanted him to exclusively play football for the Patriots.
“[Football] was an uncertainty,” Demps said prior to joining the Patriots. “I was just focused on running and competing in the Olympics. Once all that stuff was over I was ready to come back to the game. I just want to fit in and help the team out.”
“We have [Jeff Demps’] contractual rights,” Dominik said. “And certainly we’ll talk to him and stuff like that and see where his mindset is. From what I’ve been told, he wants to run track and play football. We thought it would be worth at least getting the rights to talk to him. That was a side part of the deal.
“I would sit there and say that is not why we did the trade. So we’ll talk to Demps and figure out where his football career is headed. But the main point is that we traded for a draft pick.”
Demps played in three preseason games last year in New England and had nine carries for 56 yards, including three-carry, 41-yard game against Tampa Bay that featured a 29-yard run. He also had three catches for 31 yards in the preseason before being placed on injured reserve on August 31 with a minor knee injury.
The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Demps, who has run the 100-meter in a time as fast as 10.01, did not sign with an NFL team after going undrafted in April 2012 because he wanted to focus on training for the 2012 Olympics at the time. Demps ran in the qualifying preliminaries in London, but did not run in the finals and earned a silver medal in the 4x100 meter relay team.
Blessed with 4.2 speed, Demps has experience on offense and in the return game as he finished as Florida’s eighth-leading rusher with 2,470 yards on 367 carries, a 6.7 average, and 23 touchdowns on the ground. As a receiver out of the backfield, Demps nabbed 57 passes in his career for 481 yards, an 8.4 average.
Trading Blount had leaves the Bucs with five running backs the team has Martin as the starter and Brian Leonard, Michael Smith, Demps and Mike James, who was drafted in the seventh round with the pick acquired from New England.– Mark Cook and Haley Cornish contributed to this report
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