James White

AFC East Notes: Diggs, Patriots, Jets

Cole Beasley gutted through a tough injury in the playoffs with his broken fibula, and he wasn’t the only Bills receiver to do so. Buffalo star Stefon Diggs recently revealed he had a torn oblique that he played through at the end of the season, as Ryan Talbot of NewYorkUpState.com writes. Diggs was on the injury report with an oblique issue late in the year, but the team was intentionally vague about what was wrong with him.

Now we know, and it makes Diggs’ playoff performances even more impressive. He shined during the postseason, going for at least 106 yards and a touchdown in each of the Bills’ wins over the Colts and Ravens. It’s a pretty significant injury, but obviously it shouldn’t effect Diggs in 2021.

Here are a couple other nuggets from around the AFC East:

  • James White ended up back with the Patriots on a one-year, $2.5MM deal after testing the free agent waters, and it sounds like he was anticipating a bit more. After hearing White talk to the media this week, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes that it “seems fair to say free agency didn’t unfold the way he might have envisioned.” In describing his “soft market,” Reiss says White highlighted the league’s salary cap crunch as a result of COVID-19. He adds it “sounded like that was the best offer,” the pass-catching specialist received, so he didn’t take any discount to play for Bill Belichick again.
  • The Jets just drafted Jamien Sherwood in the fifth-round, and he could be set to make a bigger impact than your typical fifth-round rookie. Sherwood was a linebacker/safety hybrid prospect, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes that the Jets “see him as an ideal fit as a weakside linebacker in their 4-3 front” and that “there’s some thought he could emerge as the starter.” Cimini says Sherwood’s draft stock was hurt by the fact that he ran a disappointing 4.74 40-yard dash at his pro day. Sherwood only became a full-time starter for Auburn this past season, his junior campaign, so it’ll be a big leap if he becomes an NFL starter right away.

Buccaneers To Sign Giovani Bernard

There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about what the Buccaneers’ backfield will look like between Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, but in the meantime they’ve added an outside option.

Tampa has agreed to a one-year deal with Giovani Bernard, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Bernard was released by the Bengals just last week, and Pelissero reports that Tom Brady and Bruce Arians both helped recruit him to Tampa Bay. Patriots running back James White apparently had interest in joining the Bucs as their third-down back before ultimately re-signing in New England, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets.

In the same tweet, Rapsheet notes that Bernard also had interest from the Chiefs, so he had his pick of last season’s Super Bowl teams. The Bucs have mostly prioritized locking up all of their own guys, and this is their first significant outside free agent signing of the spring.

He had been set to earn right around $4MM in Cincy in 2021, so it’ll be interesting to see if he beat that when we get the financial terms. A pass-catching specialist who ended up carrying the ball a lot this past year in the wake of Joe Mixon‘s injury, Bernard has 342 receptions for 2,867 yards since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2013.

The North Carolina product spent his first eight seasons with the Bengals. He’ll turn 30 in November, and he should see a lot of targets from Brady, who loves to check down to his ‘backs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots To Re-Sign James White

Running back James White is expected to re-sign with the Patriots, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The versatile RB with 25 touchdown catches since 2014 back in the fold for New England.

On his latest Patriots contract, White will earn $2.5MM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. It’s a one-year deal. This marks White’s third deal with the Pats, who most recently signed him for three years and $12MM back in 2017. He played an essential role on each of New England’s past two Super Bowl-winning teams.

White, 29, came into the league as a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2014 and that’s where he’s been ever since. He’s not just a valuable third-down tailback — he’s also a longstanding team captain. After tallying 994 all-purpose yards in 2019, he saw less time in 2020. Still, White had 49 grabs for 375 yards and a touchdown to lead all Pats RBs in receiving.

The Patriots received a promising season from 2019 third-round pick Damien Harris last season; White figures to return to his role complementing the emerging back. Sony Michel is entering a contract year, though Rex Burkhead is a free agent. It would stand to reason the Pats are not done at this position this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Steelers, Patriots, Seahawks

Cornerback Mike Hilton doesn’t plan to immediately sign his exclusive rights free agent tender as he waits for a new, long-term deal from the Steelers, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As an exclusive rights free agent, Hilton has no leverage with Pittsburgh: he can either accept a minimum salary pact from the Steelers, or decide not to play football in 2019. ERFAs and restricted free agents do hold one advantage over other young players who were drafted, however, as they can receive extensions after only two seasons (drafted players must wait at least three years). One of the better slot corners in the league, Hilton has appeared in 31 games over the past two seasons, posting three interceptions and five sacks during that span. He doesn’t plan to miss any offseason work as he pushes for a new contract, per Fowler.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Running back James White and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy each missed out on playtime/performance bonus thresholds in 2018, but the Patriots have decided to pay each player his bonus anyway, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. White will collect a $250K bonus, which he would have earned by reaching 1,200 total yards (he managed 1,176), per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Meanwhile, Guy needed to play 50% of New England’s defensive snaps for his own $250K bonus, but fell three snaps short. Together, the bonuses will add $500K to the Patriots’ salary cap, but New England can feel secure in rewarding its players. The Pats did the same thing for Guy in 2018 when he barely failed to earn a $500K bonus.
  • Doug Baldwin has already had knee and shoulder surgeries this offseason, and the veteran Seahawks receiver may have to go under the knife yet again. Appearing on Sports Radio KJR, Baldwin indicated he’s likely to require another operation in the coming months (Twitter link via Curtis Crabtree of KJR). In April, Baldwin is expected to travel to Philadelphia to meet with a specialist regarding a possible sports hernia, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. Baldwin, 30, missed three games with a knee issue in 2018 and didn’t appear fully healthy once he returned to action.
  • Free agent Jake Fisher will work out as a tight end for the Redskins on Thursday, tweets John Keim of ESPN.com. A second-round pick of the Bengals as an offensive tackle in 2015, Fisher is now attempting to convert to a skill position, and is reportedly down to 285 pounds. Fisher, who played tight end in high school, has been limited by injuries and ineffectiveness throughout his career, and has started just 12 games in four years. He auditioned for the Texans last week.

AFC Rumors: Patriots, Johnson, Browns

An interesting what-if scenario emerged after the Patriots signed center David Andrews to a three-year extension. The UDFA success story, though, may have seen his Patriots path unfold differently if the team’s most recent draft had gone in another direction. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports the Pats came close to drafting Indiana interior lineman Dan Feeney in the third round, but the Chargers stepped in and made the decision to bring the ex-Hoosiers blocker to Los Angeles with the No. 71 overall pick. New England, which held the No. 72 choice, then traded down and ended up selecting Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers at No. 83. Reiss notes Andrews’ three-year extension may not have come to fruition if Feeney was in the fold.

Here’s more from the AFC.

  • More from the defending champions: their recent extension for Super Bowl hero James White comes with some incentives that may be difficult to reach. White’s three-year, $12MM extension can max out at $15MM via playing-time and accomplishment bumps. White can earn $250K extra per season by playing in 50 percent of the Pats’ offensive snaps, with another $250K available to him if he suits up for 60 percent of their plays, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports. Should White gain 1,000 total yards in a season, he would earn a $250K bonus. Another $250K would come his way if he gains 1,200 yards in a campaign. However, the 25-year-old Wisconsin product amassed a career-high 717 yards from scrimmage last season — one that mostly didn’t feature a healthy Dion Lewis. Plus, the Pats brought in Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead this offseason and could still have LeGarrette Blount in the fold after being the first team in 17 years to use the May 9 tender. White has maxed out at 38 percent of the Pats’ plays, so eclipsing 50 or 60 percent will be difficult going forward.
  • A training camp return remains the goal for 13th-year Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. The inside ‘backer said Sunday from a NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway, per Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star, he’s still on track to be ready by camp. “I’ll go back Texas after we break OTAs, get my body right,” the 34-year-old Johnson said. “That’s the plan. Be ready for camp.” Johnson has now suffered two severe Achilles injuries in a three-season period. The Chiefs did not draft a linebacker until Round 5 (Ukeme Eligwe out of Georgia Southern), and although Johnson accepted a paycut this offseason, the Chiefs are still counting on him to return to his post on their starting defense.
  • Jabrill Peppers missed the first day of Browns rookie minicamp by not signing a participation waiver, which lets rookies practice without having signed their contract. The rookie safety could not be drug tested until he did. However, the Michigan product did sign it and joined his first-year peers on Saturday and said the delay did not stem from any attempt to avoid a drug test. “I don’t know why you think of me like that, but everyone is entitled to an opinion,” Peppers said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Peppers will enter Stage 1 of the NFL’s drug program after a diluted sample resulted in a failed drug test at the Combine.

AFC East Rumors: Pats, Ramczyk, Bills, Fins

James White‘s three-year extension with the Patriots is worth $12MM, but can max out at $15MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. White, 25, picks up $4.69MM in guaranteed money, which likely means his $690K base salary for 2017 is now fully guaranteed. A hero of New England’s Super Bowl LI victory, White rushed only 16 times is 2016 and did most of his work through the air. On 86 targets, White managed 60 receptions for 551 yards and five touchdowns.

Here’s more from New England and the rest of the AFC East:

  • The Patriots hosted Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk on Tuesday, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). Offensive line is something of an underrated long-term need area for New England, especially given that incumbent left tackle Nate Solder is entering the final year of his contract. As such, the Patriots could look to secure a successor on the left side, although Ramczyk probably won’t be an option for New England unless it trades up (the Pats currently don’t have a pick until the third round). Ramczyk is viewed as one of the draft’s best tackle prospects along with Utah’s Garett Bolles and Alabama’s Cam Robinson.
  • Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly visited the Bills on Monday, reports Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Kelly, the nephew of Bills legend Jim Kelly, is considered a Day 3 prospect thanks a multitude of injury concerns and off-field issues. After recovering quickly from a ACL tear, Kelly underwent wrist surgery in early April and won’t be able to throw for three months. Buffalo may be looking for a developmental quarterback in this year’s draft, as Tyrod Taylor‘s new contract doesn’t tie him to Buffalo for long.
  • The Dolphins visited with Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and Florida safety Marcus Maye this week, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Tankersley is expected to come off the board on Day 2, and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compares him to Cincinnati’s Dre Kirkpatrick. Maye, too, is thought to be a Round 2 or 3 selection, but Eric Galko of the Sporting News, for one, calls Maye a darkhorse first-rounder.

Patriots To Extend James White

The Patriots have agreed to a three-year contract extension with running back James White, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Financial terms aren’t yet available, but the deal will begin in 2018 and keep the Super Bowl LI hero under New England’s control through the 2020 campaign.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons

White is best known for his season-ending performance versus the Falcons, against whom he caught an eye-popping 14 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also added two more scores on the ground, including a 1-yard overtime plunge that gave the Patriots a 34-28 victory and locked up their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

While White was great on the sport’s biggest stage in February, he’s hardly a one-hit wonder. The 2014 fourth-round pick from Wisconsin has been a key pass-catching weapon for quarterback Tom Brady since 2015. Dating back to then, the 25-year-old has amassed 100 receptions and nine TDs, including 60 grabs and five scores last season.

White isn’t a No. 1-caliber runner, having totaled just 70 carries during his career, but he’ll undoubtedly continue serving as a key part of their passing attack going forward. Mike Gillislee could end up as New England’s go-to rusher if the Bills don’t match the offer he signed with the Patriots on Tuesday, and he’d add to a crowded backfield that already includes White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, among others.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: J. Taylor, McCourty, Dareus

We learned earlier today that the Giants suffered yet another blow to their secondary last night, and as Adam H. Beasley of The Miami Herald writes, the Dolphins‘ secondary is also growing thin due to injury. After losing Louis Delmas to a torn ACL last week, Miami saw Jamar Taylor leave last night’s preseason game to a quadriceps injury. Taylor, fighting for a starting cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes, dealt with a sports hernia in his rookie campaign in 2013, and last year he was placed on IR with a shoulder injury. The severity of Taylor’s latest ailment is unknown at this time.

As the Giants and Dolphins fret over their secondaries, let’s take a look at a few more links from the AFC East:

  • Devin McCourty played cornerback for the Patriots in their preseason contest against New Orleans last night, and he did not like it one bit. McCourty said, via Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com, “I hope it’s not permanent. It didn’t feel great, and I don’t think it looked great so we’ll see.” McCourty, of course, transitioned to safety from corner in 2012, and has thrived as a safety in the past couple of seasons. But with the exodus of starting-caliber corners from New England this offseason, the team may be forced to utilize McCourty’s versatility more than he would like.
  • In a separate piece, Curran discusses the status of the Patriots‘ running back battle in light of the impressive performances from James White and Dion Lewis last night.
  • PFR’s Sam Robinson wrote yesterday that Marcell Dareus has softened his public stance towards his contract negotiations with the Bills, and as Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News opines, it’s the right move. Sullivan writes that Dareus may be an excellent player, but he is surrounded by other terrific players on the defensive line, and he is not nearly the run defender that Ndamukong Suh is. Those facts, combined with Dareus’ past indiscretions, suggest that Dareus should not be paid like Suh, regardless of what Dareus himself thinks. In the end, the Bills will likely bend a bit, Dareus will bend a bit, and Dareus will remain in Buffalo for the foreseeable future.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com says Jets‘ tight end Jace Amaro, a holdover from the John Idzik regime, is on the “moderate” hot seat. Amaro was listed as the third tight end on the team’s first official depth chart, and the team has mixed feelings about him. Cimini adds that wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is in a similar situation, especially given the strong training camp of Quincy Enunwa.

East Notes: Carr, Brady, Blount, Jets

Brandon Carr will miss time after breaking a bone in his right hand during practice, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. The highly paid Cowboys cornerback will have surgery Monday in Dallas.

Although Jason Garrett didn’t want to speculate on a timetable, Moore doesn’t anticipate the ailment will keep him out out of Week 1.

We don’t think it’s serious. It’s a similar injury to what DeMarco Murray had last year when he played in the game, four or five days later,” Garrett told media from Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

Murray did not miss any games when he broke his hand last December, though the Cowboys were gunning for an NFC East title as the running back aimed toward a rushing crown. So Carr’s recovery probably won’t be as expedited.

Here are some more notes from the Eastern divisions.

  • LeGarrette Blount sustained an MCL sprain and will undergo surgery, according to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe. Since Blount’s regular season doesn’t start until Week 2 due to a suspension, the Patriots‘ top rusher is expected to be ready for his mid-September debut.
  • With the Patriots juggling their starting backfield frequently, Blount’s injury does open up time for its younger, slimmer ball-carriers. The returning starter still has the leg up in the competition, but after failing a conditioning test due to showing up for camp out of shape and now suffering an injury, Blount could be challenged for the spot, Ben Volin of the Globe writes. The player Blount replaced last year due to an alarm clock-related absence, Jonas Gray, could push Blount while he’s out, per Volin. James White remains the favorite to take on the Shane Vereen passing-down role, but free agent acquisition Travaris Cadet has outshined each of the backs in camp, Volin writes.
  • Volin also notes that Article 46, the now-controversial inclusion that continued to grant the commissioner disciplinary powers, now on full display in Deflategate, will replace player safety as the primary debate point in the next CBA negotiations in 2021.
  • With Antonio Allen now jettisoned after his Achilles’ tendon injury, the Jets are going to give cornerback Darrin Walls some work at safety, reports Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. Supplanted at corner by Gang Green’s splurge at the position this offseason, Walls join Jaiquawn Jarrett and Rontez Miles as back-line backups to gain some reps in case of another blow to the Jets’ secondary.

AFC East Notes: Hardy, Bush, Bulaga, Clay

The Patriots have a history of taking in players with checkered pasts, and could have the opportunity to do so again by signing Greg Hardy this offseason, write Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com. He notes that the team took in trouble souls such as Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Aqib Talib, and most recently LeGarrette Blount, all of whom had successful runs with the team.

Considering the cap space the Patriots have available after losing both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, Hardy could be the next reclamation project for Bill Belichick.

  • The Patriots lost versatile tailback Shane Vereen to the Giants, and missed out on Reggie Bush, who signed with the 49ers earlier today. That puts them in the market for a pass catching option out of the backfield, writes Mike Reiss of ESPN. Reiss writes that last year’s fourth-round pick James White could fill that role, or Dion Lewis, both of whom are still on the roster. He also picks out University of Miami running back Duke Johnson and former Saint Pierre Thomas as possible options.
  • The Bills were pursuing offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga aggressively in free agency, and Andrew Brandt noted that Buffalo had offered him more money than he got to return to the Packers, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.
  • The Bills may have lost out on Bulaga, but they are still trying to land Charles Clay away from the Dolphins, writes Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. The team fully intends to sign Clay to an offer sheet, then the Dolphins would have to either match or allow Clay to leave.