Despite being on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a major injury, the New England Patriots showed confidence in running back James White. The team recently re-signed its team captain on a two-year, $5 million contract to keep him in the fold through 2023.
“I didn’t really know what my free agency market was going to be like coming off this injury, whether anybody would want to quote/unquote take a chance on me and things of that nature,” White told reporters earlier this week. “But Bill [Belichick] had the confidence and wanted me back, so that was kind of important to me. To still be wanted after this is definitely something that helped me out a lot.”
While staying in New England will give White a chance to continue his career, he will need to prove himself ready to contribute again. The Patriots, after all, gave him an incentive-laden contract full of bonuses rather than guarantees.
A look at its details shows this (via Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson):
- Base salary: $1.16 million (incl. $500,000 guaranteed)
- Offseason workout bonus: $75,000
- Roster bonus: $75,000
- Per-game roster bonus: $1.19 million
- Incentives: $1 million
- Salary cap number: $1.52 million
What stands out when looking at those numbers is the lack of a signing bonus. With the exception of his $500,000 salary guarantee, the Patriots did not give White any additional guarantees: he will have to earn a significant portion of this deal — including a per-game roster bonus of $70,000 and $1 million in incentives — as well as the $75,000 roster bonus due on August 1.
Most of that roster bonus plus the incentives are considered not likely to be earned based on White’s shortened 2021 campaign. That means that should he earn those, they will be added to the Patriots’ 2023 salary cap. His cap number for 2022 will remain at a manageable $1.52 million.
- Base salary: $1.32 million
- Roster bonus: $500,000
- Per-game roster bonus: $680,000
- Incentives: $1 million
- Salary cap number: $2.5 million
The second year of White’s deal does not include any guarantees at all, but a sizable roster bonus worth $500,000 due on March 20. This gives New England an easy out should White not be able to live up to expectations in 2022.
Even if White stays on the roster past that date, however, his contract will not be overly expensive. He will still count just $2.5 million versus the cap from the current perspective.
All in all, it is no overstatement to call White’s two-year contract with the Patriots a “prove it” deal. The 30-year-old needs to show that he can get back on the field quickly after his hip subluxation, and produce at his pre-injury level if he wants to come close to earning the maximum achievable value of the deal ($7 million).