James White

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.

Pats Notes: Amendola, White, Gaston

After signing a lucrative five-year deal prior to the 2013 season, Danny Amendola has become the “invisible man” in the Patriots’ passing game, writes Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Through two games in 2014, Amendola has two catches for 16 yards, and he was on the field for just 18 snaps against the Vikings last weekend. As Volin notes, “It’s a continuation from the end of last year, when he had one pass thrown his way in the AFC Championship game, which he dropped.”

Volin writes that there is a disconnect between quarterback Tom Brady and Amendola, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Some of it should be placed on the offensive line, whose shoddy pass-blocking has forced Brady to get rid of the ball on hot reads and bubble screens, and some should be placed on Brady himself (after all, Amendola has gotten himself open at least a few times and Brady has missed him). Nonetheless, there was some talk at the beginning of the offseason that New England would release Amendola, and if things do not improve soon, a release following the 2014 campaign could be inevitable.

Now for some other Patriots items:

  • Amendola is not the only New England wideout yet to establish himself in the team’s aerial attack this year. As Volin writes in the same piece cited above, newly-acquired Brandon LaFell is “frustrated as hell” that he has mostly been reduced to blocking, but Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald writes that more passes will come to LaFell, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins when the Patriots “expand a game plan that called for a run-first offense and quick throws to offset protection concerns.”
  • Speaking of the run-first offense, Howe writes in the same article that rookie RB James White has been the team’s only healthy scratch for the first two weeks of the season, and despite his impressive training camp, White realizes that he will need to continue to excel in practice to get a shot on game days.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com tweets that the Patriots could look to bring back DL Bruce Gaston, who was waived by the Dolphins yesterday, and place him on the practice squad.
  • In a separate piece, Reiss writes that, since the Logan Mankins trade, Nate Solder has stepped up to fill the off-the-field leadership void. Reiss also wonders if the Buccaneers are regretting the trade, which appeared to be a big win for them at the time it happened but has drawn more scrutiny during the team’s early struggles.

Sunday Transactions: AFC North

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC North teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions are noted below.

Additionally, as of 11:00am CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. For the 2014 and 2015 seasons, changes were made to practice squad rules that allow teams to carry eight players instead of 10, and the eligibility requirements for those extra two spots were also loosened. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Baltimore Ravens:

Cincinnati Bengals:

Cleveland Browns:

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Extra Points: Bowe, Bortles, Blue

Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe will be suspended for the season opener as a result of his marijuana possession arrest last November, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Meanwhile, Bowe is dealing with a “shot” finger, as Andy Reid told the KC Star’s Terez Paylor.

Here’s some more miscellaneous links from around the league:

      • Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles’ second preseason game was televised nationally last night, and praise is pouring in. “It was against the second- and third-team defenders for the Bears, but there was no question Blake Bortles looked the part of a viable NFL quarterback on Thursday night in Chicago,” said CBS’ Will Brinson. Bortles “showed why he’s the future of the franchise, and why the future just might be now,” said Bleacher Reports Ty Schalter. “Bortles has looked to be every bit of the future Pro Bowl quarterback a team expects to get with a top three draft pick,” said USA Today’s Chris Strauss, who calls for the Jags to name Bortles the starter immediately. And ESPN’s Michael DiRocco says Bortles needs first-team reps this week.
      • Could the Ravens be trying to sneak sixth-round quarterback Keith Wenning onto the practice squad? Backup Tyrod Taylor is scheduled for most of the work in tomorrow’s preseason game, and ESPN’s Jamison Hensley makes an “educated guess” the team will limit Wenning’s exposure to other teams who might want to poach him. “The presumed plan is to develop Wenning into the primary backup by next season, when Taylor is a free agent,” says Hensley.
      • Another rookie making waves is Texans sixth-round running back Alfred Blue. ESPN’s Tania Ganguli relayed praise for Blue from Bill O’Brien, who assessed the rookie’s skill set: “Good teammate, hardworking guy, football smart, three-down back — he’s got to continue to improve catching the football. But good runner, good vision, good on special teams, understands football, asks good questions. I see some good things from Alfred.” An ACL injury and crowded LSU backfield limited Blue’s college exposure — he carried just 209 times in 40 games — but scouts took notice of his physical ability once he declared for the draft, forgoing another year of eligibility. In his NFL Draft Preview book, Nolan Nawrocki described Blue as “A physically gifted runner who would have been the No. 1 back at most schools given his combination of size, speed, power and competitiveness.” Nawrocki added that Blue is a prime candidate to be a “far more productive pro than college player if he proves he can stay healthy.”
      • ESPN’s staff spotlighted each team’s most intriguing skill-position battle. Among the most notable capsules, Mike Reiss talks about the Patriots’ trio of running backs, saying Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen or James White could be featured any given week.
      • Greg Toler and Donte Moncrief are among four standouts in Colts camp identified by IndyStar.com’s Stephen Holder. On Toler, Holder says, “Toler has been all over the field during camp, showing his superior ball skills and ability to play man coverage in the Colts defense. If he continues to perform like this heading into the regular season, the Colts won’t see much of a dropoff from franchise cornerback Vontae Davis to Toler.”
      • The Packers are deeper this season in the eyes of Journal Sentinel writer Bob McGinn, who analyzes the team’s projected roster position by position.