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Former Bengals running back Rex Burkhead signs with Patriots

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Rex Burkhead is leaving Cincinnati to sign with the defending Super Bowl champs.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have lost yet another key contributor in free agency.

Rex Burkhead has decided to leave Cincinnati for New England, as the Patriots have announced they are signing the veteran running back. Burkhead figures to make $3.15 million on a one-year deal in New England.

Burkhead, 26, originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick (190th overall) out of Nebraska in the 2013 NFL Draft. Despite limited playing time, Burkhead has appeared in 42 NFL games during his time with the Bengals, though a lot of that came as a special teams player.

For his career, Burkhead has made one start and has 87 rushing attempts for 375 yards and three touchdowns to go with 34 receptions for 288 yards with one score. He also has 27 special teams tackles, including consecutive double digit tackle seasons with 11 in 2015 and 12 in 2016.

In 2016, Burkhead played in all 16 games with one start and had 74 carries for 344 yards and two touchdowns and 17 receptions for 145 yards. Most of that work came in Week 17 when he made his first and only NFL start, replacing injured Bengals Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.

Burkhead made the most of that opportunity and ran for 119 yards and two scores on 27 carries. He also caught two passes for 25 yards. It was too little too late though as Burkhead simply wasn’t given enough chances to play for most of his career in stripes, which is why he left this offseason to find a better role on a team that will play him more. It also helps that the Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders and just won the Super Bowl in February.

New England is set to lose starting running back LeGarrette Blount in free agency. That would open up competition with Dion Lewis and James White for the starting gig next season, but even if Burkhead doesn’t win that job, he’s good enough to split carries with those two guys in New England. The Patriots always find ways to utilize worthy players and Burkhead has shown he can be a difference maker, when given the chance.

As for the Bengals, they are left with Hill being the starter as he enters the final year of his deal, Bernard coming off an ACL tear, and practice squad running back Tra Carson to man their backfield. The Bengals will certainly be looking at running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft.