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Patriots RB James White has curious incentives in his contract

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Can the running back reach these marke?

Back in April, New England Patriots RB James White signed a three-year extension with $12 million in new money, with incentives that could net an additional $3 million. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe finally has the details of those incentives and they’re pretty interesting.

From 2018-20 (the new years in the deal), White can tack on an extra $1 million each year if he reaches the following limits:

50% of the snaps: $250,000

60% of the snaps: $250,000

1,000 total yards: $250,000

1,200 total yards: $250,000

So to maximize the value of his contract, White will need to play 60% of the offensive snaps and gain 1,200 total yards from scrimmage in each year from 2018 through 2020.

Why is this interesting?

Over the past five seasons, here are the Patriots running backs that have qualified for each incentive:

50% of the snaps: Shane Vereen (52.5% in 2014)

60% of the snaps:

1,000 total yards: LeGarrette Blount (1,199 in 2016)

1,200 total yards: Stevan Ridley (1,314 in 2012)

That’s it. Ridley would have picked up $500,000 in incentives for his 2012 performance, while Vereen and Blount would have added $250,000. No back would have picked up the full $1 million per season.

The only two other running backs to play 40% of the snap are 2016 Blount (47.1% of the snaps) and 2012 Ridley (44.4% of the snaps). The only three other backs to gain 750 yards from scrimmage are 2014 Vereen (838 yards), 2013 Ridley (835), and 2013 Blount (810).

Patriots running backs have just eight 1,000 yard seasons under head coach Bill Belichick dating back to 2000, and five of those seasons came in Belichick’s first five years with the team from 2000-04 (Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith, and Corey Dillon). BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 2010 season (1,093 yards) is the other season.

White’s career highs in both categories of incentives came this past year when he played 38.1% of the offensive snaps and gained 717 yards. He would almost have to double his contributions to reach the full $1 million in incentives.

I’m curious if the team envisions a larger role for White moving forward. For his first two seasons in the league, White wasn’t a strong runner, but he seemed to turn a corner in 2016 as he picked up yards he would have previously left on the field.

These incentives don’t come into play until 2018, so White won’t have to jockey with Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, and Mike Gillislee to achieve these incentives in 2017, but White could very well be the lead running back in 2018 and beyond.