FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots were involved in a trade on Saturday, sending Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for running back LeGarrette Blount.
A returner/running back, Demps was a sought-after rookie free agent last summer, returning to football after spending eight months away from the game while training for the 2012 Summer Olympics. He was a member of the silver-medal winning 4 x 100 relay team for the United States.
Demps signed with the Patriots and played in the final two games of the preseason before being placed on injured reserve just before the regular season with a knee injury.
Last month, Demps talked about trying to do both track and football, and that he would spend the NFL offseason training for the upcoming track season. If he competed through the full IAAF season, Demps possibly wouldn’t return to the Patriots until a month into the regular season.
Bill Belichick, as you’d expect, was less than thrilled with the idea that Demps was not committed to football.
So with the Buccaneers trying to unload Blount and New England looking to move Demps, the teams just switched players. The Tampa Bay Times reported the Buccaneers asked for Demps as “a throw-in” to the deal.
Blount went undrafted out of Oregon in 2010, falling because of character concerns. In his first season with Tampa Bay, he averaged 5.0 yards on 201 carries, adding six touchdowns to his 1,007 yards. The next year he had 184 carries for 781 yards and five scores.
But last year, when Tampa Bay first-round pick Doug Martin showed himself to be a star in the making at the position, Blount’s carries plummeted to just 41 in 13 games.
“We’re excited to have him here,” Belichick said. “I think he’s a good football player. He’s had good production. I think he got into a situation last year where they obviously went with Martin, but I think this guy is a good football player.”
Asked if Demps’s desire to concentrate on track played a role in moving him, Belichick deflected the question, saying simply “the overall trade was good for our football team. We gave up something and we got something.”
Wide receiver fix
The Patriots’ struggles drafting and developing receivers have been well documented. This year they took two, Aaron Dobson from Marshall and Texas Christian’s Josh Boyce .
There is a lot of talk, much of it vague, about the difficulties of learning the Patriots’ offense and why it has been difficult for both young and veteran receivers to pick it up.
On Saturday night, Belichick gave an indication of what makes it so tough.
“I would say that a lot of players who have come here, however they have come here, they’ve usually commented on the amount or the learning or the adjustments, the pace,” he said. “I’m not coaching any other team in the league so I don’t know what the other 31 teams do, but I’d say a lot of players that come here feel challenged at that position.”
Free agent frenzy
Once the draft ended, the mad scramble to sign undrafted players began.
Through various Twitter reports, from agents, college staffs, and the players themselves, here is an early list of players signed by the Patriots:
Akron RB Quinton Hines, Penn State CB Stephon Morris and C Matt Stankiewitch, Nevada TE Zach Sudfield, South Florida DT Cory Grissom, Missouri WR T.J. Moe, Cincinnati WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Kent State OL Josh Kline, and Troy SS Kanorris Davis.