Signed away from the Bengals earlier this month, Rex Burkhead will become the first Patriots running back since 2010 to earn more than $2 million in a season.

The addition of Burkhead is interesting beyond the fact that his 2017 cap hit ($3.15 million) is more than those of James White and Dion Lewis ($2.73 million) combined.

The versatile former Nebraska star is a particular favorite of Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who was Burkhead’s position coach (2013) and offensive coordinator (2014-15) in Cincinnati.

Speaking Tuesday at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Jackson raved about Burkhead’s potential in New England.

“He’s very talented,” Jackson said, via Phil Perry of CSN New England. “He’s a guy that was playing behind some very talented players, and so he’s going to get his opportunity now, and he’s going to flourish. He’s a really good player. A really good player.

“He’s very versatile because he’s a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He’s a good blocker. He’s very bright. He’s been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team.”

If that scouting report sounds familiar to Bengals fans, it’s because Jackson offered similarly effusive praise two offseasons ago when he was experimenting with Burkhead as a wide receiver.

“He’s very talented,” Jackson said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer, in June of 2015. “You have a talented player on your team you see if you can find a way to get him involved. He can do a little bit of everything. He can run the ball, too. He can catch, protect. He’s one of the better players on our team so we will see what we can do with him.”

Let that statement sink in.

Jackson viewed Burkhead as one of the better players on a roster that Ravens coach John Harbaugh believed was the league’s most talented in 2015.

Over the past two decades, we’ve learned never to underestimate Bill Belichick’s ability to identify hidden gems, exploiting “less populated” talent pools.

Don’t be surprised if a former Bengals third-stringer headlines the Patriots‘ backfield throughout the 2017 season.

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