More than 20 New England Patriots players are set to hit free agency this offseason, meaning Sunday’s Week 17 matchup with the New York Jets could be their final game with the franchise.
Included in that group are five of the Patriots’ eight team captains: quarterback Cam Newton, center David Andrews, cornerback Jason McCourty, running back James White and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy.
White and Guy both fielded questions about free agency during Friday afternoon video conferences.
?I?ve never been in this situation before,” said White, who’s spent his entire seven-year career in New England. “Nobody really knows what the future holds. For right now, my mind?s just on trying to finish the season strong. One game left, just enjoy these last few days with my teammates, because obviously the locker room, it?s not going to be the same guys in the locker room no matter what happens out there on Sunday. So just enjoy these moments with everybody.”
White said he “of course” would be open to re-signing with the Patriots.
This has been a difficult season for the three-time Super Bowl champ, both on and off the field. In September, White’s father was killed in a car crash that also left his mother hospitalized. (She’s now “doing better,” White reported Friday.) He missed two games to be with his family and has seen his on-field production decline, averaging fewer receiving yards per game (26.5) than he has since his rookie year.
?It was definitely a little different,” White said. “Everything didn?t quite feel the same. It felt like something was missing. Football was definitely a little bit of a distraction for me, but talking to my mom every day and things of that nature just makes you want to be there with her and be back home with the family.
“So it?s a different year, that?s for sure, but we have a great group of guys who help me get through these times. Just being around them definitely helped me get my mind off things. I?ll see my family in a few weeks, so it?ll be good to see them once everything?s done.”
The 28-year-old said he is “definitely really motivated” to continue playing next season.
“The average career is not seven years, so (I’m) definitely blessed to make it this far,” White said. “But (I) still feel like I have a lot of good football in me, a lot to prove to myself as a player, and I’m excited for the future.”
Patriots running backs Damien Harris, Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor and Brandon Bolden (who opted out of this season) are under contract for 2021. White and Rex Burkhead will be free agents.
Guy, who’s closing out the four-year Patriots contract he signed in 2017, said re-signing with New England would be “amazing.” He’s been the team’s best and most consistent defensive lineman over the last four seasons, during which he won one Super Bowl and played in another.
“I?d love to return to New England,” Guy said. “I laid the roots already here, so if I?m able to do that that would be amazing. New England has been very blessing to me, they?re very special to me, the community has helped me out a lot and I?ve helped out the community. It?s a good group of people here overall with the players, coaches and the staff, and it?s something you get to cherish.”
Defensive line is one unit the Patriots should look to improve this offseason, as the team lacked quality depth behind Guy and pass-rushing D-tackle Adam Butler. Butler also is set to hit the market after playing on a restricted free agent tender this season.
Other impending Patriots FAs include cornerback J.C. Jackson (restricted), guard Joe Thuney, tackle/guard Jermaine Eluemunor, wide receiver Damiere Byrd, outside linebackers John Simon and Shilique Calhoun, safety Terrence Brooks, defensive end Deatrich Wise, special teamers Justin Bethel and Cody Davis and kicker Nick Folk.