James White’s Extension Continues Patriots’ Surprising Running Back Trend

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NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport on Wednesday offered some additional details on the three-year contract extension New England Patriots running back James White signed Tuesday.

According to Rapoport’s source, White’s new deal is worth $12 million over the length of the contract, including $4.69 million guaranteed.

The extension represents a significant pay raise for the 25-year-old — who made just over $1.5 million in salary over his first three NFL seasons combined — and also continues a somewhat surprising trend for the Patriots, who have been unusually willing to shell out big money for running backs this offseason.

Since the league year opened last month, the Patriots have signed Rex Burkhead to a one-year, $3.15 million contract, extended a two-year, $6.4 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Mike Gillislee and locked up White to an extension worth $4 million annually.

For comparison’s sake, the Patriots haven’t paid any running back more than $2 million in a single season since 2010. They now could have three backs making more than that in 2017.

White does most of his damage in the passing game. He caught 60 passes in 2016 (the most by a running back in the Bill Belichick era) for 551 yards and five touchdowns, setting career highs in all three categories.

The Wisconsin product played the best game of his career in Super Bowl LI, amassing 139 all-purpose yards and scoring three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons. His 14 receptions in the game broke the previous Super Bowl record of 13 set by Demaryius Thomas one year earlier.

With Gillislee’s status still unsettled, the Patriots currently have five running backs under contract for the 2017 season. White, Burkhead and Dion Lewis should handle the lion’s share of touches, with Brandon Bolden playing primarily on special teams and D.J. Foster seeking to gain an NFL foothold after spending most of his rookie season as a healthy scratch.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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