Patriots: James White’s decreased usage might tell his free agency story
By Jerry Trotta
Patriots RB James White’s reduced role could work out for the team in free agency.
As we enter the final week of the regular season, the New England Patriots are fast approaching their most important offseason in recent memory. Fortunately for them, they’ll be flush with close to $70 million in salary cap space that should be used on blockbuster additions, whether it be via free agency or trade.
Another crucial aspect that isn’t getting discussed enough is their slew of impending free agents, which includes the likes of offensive linemen David Andrews and Joe Thuney, as well as running back James White, among others.
In regards to the latter, we’re not sure what his future holds. He’s been an integral part of the Patriots’ offense for years now, but his role was bizarrely reduced in dramatic fashion this season. Taking that into account, don’t be surprised if the front office tries to use that to their advantage if they end up trying to re-sign him.
It remains to be seen why White has been phased out of the offense — it might have something to do with the tragic passing of his father at the start of the year — but it can really only prove to benefit the Patriots this offseason. Either they let him walk or bring him back again on the cheap.
Since neither one of Damien Harris or Sony Michel are trusted as pass catchers out of the backfield, we’d surely be in favor of re-signing him. Not only that, but White has spent his entire seven-year career with the Patriots. He knows the intricacies of their playbook, wants to remain with the franchise, and knows what it takes to win at the highest level.
We’re not going to let one underwhelming season in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy change our opinion of White. Despite being around forever, he’s still just 28 years old. And his decreased usage — he’s played just 32% of the offensive snaps in 13 games prior to Week 17 — likely means that he’ll be fresher than ever next season.
Either way, don’t be surprised if the Patriots look to exploit White’s reduced role as a bargaining chip when it comes time to make a decision on his future.