The New England Patriots have taken care of another in-house free agent. After already re-signing four of their players headed towards unrestricted free agency over the last two days, they were now also able to reach an agreement with running back James White.
White, 30, is staying put on a reported two-year, $5 million contract. The veteran, who originally joined the organization as a fourth-round draft pick in 2014, will therefore get another chance to add to his legacy.
What exactly does the move mean from a team perspective, though? Let’s dig in.
New England’s top three running backs are all set to be back in 2022
With White staying put for another two years, the Patriots’ running back corps will retain its top three players for the 2022 season. Whereas Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson will serve as the one-two punch on early downs, White will resume his role as New England’s receiving backs on third downs and in up-tempo situations.
With him back in the fold, the Patriots’ running back room now looks as follows:
- Damien Harris
- Rhamondre Stevenson
- James White
- J.J. Taylor
- Devine Ozigbo
The Patriots also have one other member of the group headed for free agency: veteran Brandon Bolden, who took over White’s role after his season-ending hip injury last September, is set to enter the open market on March 16. New England furthermore declined to place a tender on restricted free agent-to-be Jakob Johnson, the team’s fullback of the last two years.
Another team captain stays in the fold
Four of the Patriots’ five team captains of the 2021 season — all but center David Andrews — were set to enter free agency this year. Three have already been brought back: White joins fellow captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater on the re-signings list. This leaves linebacker Dont’a Hightower as the only member of the leadership group still unaccounted for.
Keeping the most experienced and respected players on the team around makes sense for the Patriots, despite their relatively advanced collective age. The team, after all, is still in a transformation process with quarterback Mac Jones heading into his second season.
The Jones-White connection will get another chance to develop
Speaking of Mac Jones, the first-round rookie showed a solid connection with White early last season. Before he suffered a hip subluxation in Week 3 against New Orleans, the eighth-year man showed some encouraging early chemistry with the Patriots’ new QB.
White caught 12 passes on 14 targets for a combined 94 yards over the first two-and-a-half games. At the time that he went down versus the Saints, he was actually the team’s leading receiver in terms of receptions. White was less productive as a runner, but he played a valuable role as a safety blanket for the young quarterback.
Now heading into their second season together, it will be interesting to see how the relationship develops — especially considering that Jones is the undisputed QB1 this year, after primarily working as the number two behind Cam Newton last summer.
The Patriots feel confident in White’s rehabilitation
As noted above, White’s 2021 campaign came to an early end last September: he hurt his hip against New Orleans and later underwent season-ending surgery. However, there is some optimism he will be back at full strength soon — and his new contract is further confirmation of that