The New England Patriots brought back James White ahead of NFL free agency, but they didn’t overextend themselves to retain the veteran pass-catching back.
White’s new Patriots contract, signed Tuesday, reportedly is a two-year, $5 million deal that includes no signing bonus and just $500,000 in guaranteed money.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss shared the full contract details:
With a maximum contract value of $7 million over two years, including incentives, White has an opportunity to earn a solid payday for an aging player at his position. But the Patriots also are protecting themselves.
With no signing bonus and just half a million in guarantees, the Patriots easily can cut the 30-year-old either before this season or next offseason if he does not look like the same player following the hip injury that ended his 2021 campaign last September.
A recent report from the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian indicated White’s recovery is going “great,” but it’s impossible to truly know how he’ll perform until he gets back on the field for spring practice and training camp.
The Patriots will hope to get the White they saw pre-injury. After a down season in 2020, he opened 2021 by catching 12 passes on 13 targets for 94 yards over the first two games while adding a rushing touchdown. He was tackled awkwardly early in a Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
Even if he never returns to his Tom Brady-era peak, a healthy White would be a valuable asset for second-year quarterback Mac Jones, who was heavily reliant on receiver Jakobi Meyers on third downs this season. Jones could benefit from having an experienced security blanket out of the backfield.
The Patriots have prioritized locking up their own veterans thus far in free agency, re-signing safety Devin McCourty, special teamer Matthew Slater, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, kicker Nick Folk, reserve offensive lineman James Ferentz and White before agreeing to terms with any external free agents. They also swung a trade with the Cleveland Browns, acquiring linebacker Mack Wilson in exchange for outside linebacker Chase Winovich.
We’ll see if the Patriots look to add depth at White’s position through the 2022 NFL Draft or undrafted free agency. J.J. Taylor is a potential internal successor to the longtime co-captain, but he’s played sparingly in his two pro seasons and has caught just five career passes.