New England Patriots Sign Return Specialist Leon Washington in Hopes to Improve Return Game
After Josh Cribbs elected to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, the New England Patriots turned their attention to kick returner Leon Washington in free agency. After a day of negotiations, the Patriots were able to ink Washington to a contract. Financial terms of the deal are unknown, but sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Washington signed a one-year deal.
Leon Washington will bring blazing speed to the Patriots’ return game. Washington has the ability to “take it to the house”, returning eight kickoffs for touchdowns, tied for the most in NFL history with Cribbs. He has returned 244 kickoffs for 6,315 yards in his career. The 29-year-old Washington represented the NFC as their Pro Bowl kickoff returner this past season. He should immensely improve the kickoff return game of the Patriots, which ranked 25th in the league in 2012.
Washington averaged roughly 29 yards per return in the regular season for the Seattle Seahawks last year, considerably better than the Patriots 21.2 return average in 2012.
Not only can Washington potentially improve the Patriots return game, he can also implement a change of pace back in the backfield. In seven seasons in the NFL, he has rushed for 2,213 yards on 473 attempts.
Durability has been a strong point for Washington. He has played in all 16 games in six of his seven NFL seasons, missing time due to injury only in the 2009 season.
Washington and Olympic medalist Jeff Demps could provide a strong return tandem for the Patriots special teams unit. Demps says he will return to track and field but still plans on playing for New England this upcoming season. Assuming Demps does not get cut, he and Washington could form the fastest duo in the return game in league history.