Did Blount make a mistake by not signing with the Patriots earlier?

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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LeGarrette Blount is coming off the best statistical season of his career, and the only things he has to show for it are a spot in the unemployment line and a gaping wound after falling on the sword for the betterment of the New England Patriots — again.

If Blount were a few years younger, he’d be swimming in top-dollar offers from teams all over the league instead of being treated like an ancient artifact that might break on contact. Being 30 years old and one-dimensional isn’t a good look on any running back in the NFL, even if he did lead the league in rushing touchdowns last season (18).

Blount might have avoided all of this if he signed the Patriots’ original offer sheet that was on the table. There has been mutual interest between the two sides since the start of the offseason, but a deal never came together because Blount was holding out for more money from either the Patriots or another team.

Back in April at a Boston Celtics game, Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Mannix recalled a lighthearted moment where Blount briefly joked about his free-agent status.

“See, tell them I still got it. Give me some money,” said Blount.

The bruising back rolled the dice on himself, and it has been a losing effort so far.

Teams such as the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants have shown interest in adding him to their backfield, but no one has taken the plunge to actually sign him yet. It also didn’t help that he entered free agency during a year when the draft was rich with young running back talent.

Sure, the Patriots were probably lowballing him for his services. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been playing that game for years. He’s a master at getting great players on the cheap and either trading them, releasing them or letting them walk when the price gets steeper than he likes. Blount had signed enough generous contracts with the team to win two Super Bowl rings. He already had the hardware. Cashing in on one final payday seemingly became the top priority for the aging back.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

But that gamble has only boxed him into a corner.

The Patriots have seemingly already moved on by signing former Buffalo Bills tailback Mike Gillislee to add to a deep running back corps that already included James White, Dion Lewis, Brandon Boldin and Rex Burkhead. And then they surprisingly slapped Blount with the rare May 9 tender.

If Blount remains unsigned on July 22, he can only negotiate with the Patriots through the first 10 weeks of the 2017 season. If a team does decide to sign him before July 22, the Patriots would be issued a 2018 compensatory draft pick, while the team that signed him would have to give one up.

It’s a ruthless move by the Patriots, but Belichick has a long history of being cold and calculated in decisions that benefit the team. Blount called Belichick the “greatest [coach] of all time” after the team completed the greatest comeback in NFL history to win Super Bowl LI. Now, he is forced to learn the hard way why those words are true.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Blount remains unsigned. The Patriots aren’t carrying six running backs on a game day roster. So that would likely make Blount the odd man out unless someone gets injured or underperforms in training camp.

Timing is everything in the NFL, and by holding out for more money, Blount might have missed his opportunity to resume his prominent role as Tom Brady’s sledgehammer in the backfield. The Patriots wanted him back, and he wanted to come back. His return to Foxborough is still a realistic possibility.

Just not in a way either side ever imagined.