The Patriots traded running back Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams for a pair of late-round draft picks.
Los Angeles is sending 2022 fifth- and sixth-round selections to New England, though those picks could convert to a fourth-rounder if the Rams receive a compensatory fourth-round selection.
New England had a stockpile at running back with Michel, Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, and J.J. Taylor on the depth chart.
A first-round pick in 2018, Michel had his best season as a rookie, when he scored six postseason touchdowns, including the only score in New England’s 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
Michel, slowed by several knee injuries in his career, has 535 carries for 2,292 yards and 14 touchdowns in 38 regular-season games. He fills a big need for the Rams, who lost starting tailback Cam Akers to a torn Achilles’ tendon earlier this summer.
The emergence of Stevenson, the rookie fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, gave the Patriots the ability to deal Michel for future capital. Michel’s fifth-year option was not picked up by the team in the spring.
“Definitely tough,” said White. “That’s my guy. Being with him since his rookie year, kind of helping him become the player he is today, and he’s gotten better and better each year.
“It’s tough to see him go, for sure. He’s a hard worker, tough guy. Definitely puts the team first. Definitely going to miss him, but best of luck to him.”
“Sony is always bringing energy, and always has a smile on his face,’’ said fullback Jakob Johnson. “He makes me look good when he runs the ball, so he’s just a hard worker and overall good guy.”
Harris, who leapt to the top of the depth chart last season, is the Patriots’ lead back. He has flashed vision, power, and speed in his brief career and has had a solid summer.
“I think Damien’s a player that improved a lot from year one to year two,” coach Bill Belichick said earlier in training camp. “This year, he’s in a little different role. Now he has an opportunity to compete for a lead spot and so he has embraced that.
“He’s worked hard. He’s been here since the day after the season was over. He has worked as hard as anyone has in the offseason.”
White remains one of the most versatile — and best receiving — backs in the league. He is a demon on third down, and one of the most respected players and leaders in the locker room and around the league.
Bolden has a vast knowledge of the Patriots offense and is a core special teamer. Taylor is a multifaceted player who can contribute as a runner, receiver, and return man.
Michel was drafted No. 31 overall in 2018 out of Georgia. He carried seven times for 34 yards and had four receptions for 37 yards in the preseason victory over the Eagles last week.
The Patriots play their final preseason game Sunday vs. the New York Giants. The roster must be cut down to 53 players Tuesday.