The New England Patriots signed RB James White to a three-year extension on Tuesday, April 18th, retaining the hero of Super Bowl LI through his 28th birthday. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports the extension has $12 million in base salary with $4.69 million guaranteed. There also appears to be $3 million in incentives.
#Patriots gave RB James White a 3-year extension worth $12M base, source said. $4.69M guaranteed. $15M is the max. Was to make $690K in ’17.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 19, 2017
White was entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract and was scheduled to earn $690,000. Based on the guaranteed figure of $4.69 million, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Patriots effectively guaranteed his 2017 salary and found $4 million to pay White in guaranteed.
Maybe that remaining $4 million in guarantees represents a million dollars for each year of the deal. It could also represent the single-year average of former Patriots RB Shane Vereen and his contract with the New York Giants; Vereen is a pretty solid comparable for White. It’s also equal to the amount of money the Patriots offered Buffalo Bills restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee.
While the guaranteed money is important and interesting, it seems like the Patriots are paying White roughly $4 million per year on his extended seasons, with a chance for it to increase to $5 million per year. These figures price White as the 10th-to-15th highest paid running back in the league, on average.
Is White a top 15 running back in the league? Probably not, but he did finish the 2017 regular and postseason with 883 yards and 9 touchdowns and he showed progress as a runner down the stretch. He was already one of the two or three most dynamic receiving backs in the league.
White adds to a crowded and surprisingly expensive running back corps, with Gillislee scheduled to earn $3.2 million per year and Rex Burkhead to earn $3.15 million, the 23rd and 24th most expensive running back contracts in the league. The Eagles (Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews) and the Jets (Matt Forte, Bilal Powell) are the only other teams with two running backs in the top 25, never mind three running backs at the top of the league.
The Patriots are suddenly interested in paying top dollar for a position that has been increasingly shunned around the league. Perhaps the team just has so much cap space they’re willing to pay slightly more for the best players at the position. White must be happy to be on the receiving end of this change in strategy.