Keion White

Patriots Ink Top Two Draft Picks To Conclude Rookie Signings

The Patriots followed the league’s recent trend, wrapping up their rookie contract signings today, inking their last two remaining unsigned players. The team announced today that Oregon first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez and Georgia Tech second-round edge Keion White have both signed their rookie contracts.

Gonzalez transferred to Oregon after two years of college at Colorado. After stepping in as a one-year starter for the Ducks, Gonzalez is set to step in as a starter for a new team once again this year. During his one year in Eugene, Gonzalez was a no-doubt first-team All-Pac 12 cornerback with four interceptions, 11 passes defensed, and a blocked field goal. That single-season performance alone was enough for many teams to place him atop their draft boards as the top cornerback prospect.

In New England, Gonzalez is likely to start across from Jonathan Jones at cornerback. Marcus Jones and Jack Jones are both expected to step up in expanded roles in their sophomore seasons, but with Jalen Mills making a likely transition to safety, Gonzalez could make an earlier impact on the first-team defense.

Gonzalez will be playing on a fully-guaranteed four-year, $15.10MM rookie contract with a $7.98MM signing bonus, according to Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald. He’ll also receive roster bonuses of $521.494 in 2024, $675,000 in 2025, and $550,000 in 2026.

White was also a transfer in college, joining the Yellow Jackets after three years at Old Dominion. He only had two years of dominance over his five college seasons, but in those two seasons, he combined for 11.0 sacks and 22.0 tackles for loss. Injuries and a position change from tight end kept White from fully developing as a pass rusher at the collegiate level, but a high motor and natural abilities allowed White to lead Georgia Tech in both sacks and tackles for loss last year.

At 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, White is a perfect fit for the Patriots’ defensive line, where he can move along the line as a rotational substitute. With Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise returning as long-time starters, White will almost certainly rotate in as a rookie but could develop into an eventual replacement for one of the two veterans. It shouldn’t take long for White to become a regular contributor as a rotational disruptor for the Patriots’ defense.

White’s deal is a four-year, $7.79MM contract, according to Kyed. He’ll receive a $2.67MM signing bonus, and the first two years of his rookie contact (worth $750,000 and $1.10MM, respectively) will be fully guaranteed. $802,008 of his 2025 salary (worth a total of $1.46MM) will also be guaranteed. This doesn’t quite match the three guaranteed years we saw with 39th-overall pick Jonathan Mingo‘s deal, but over two and a half years’ worth of guarantees continues the recent growth of contracts for second-round picks.

With an early concentration on defense and two special teams selections, the Patriots certainly came into the 2023 draft with a plan. Here is New England’s completed draft class:

Round 1, No. 17 (from Steelers): Christian Gonzalez, CB (Oregon) (signed)
Round 2, No. 46: Keion White, DE (Georgia Tech) (signed)
Round 3, No. 76 (from Panthers): Marte Mapu, LB (Sacramento State) (signed)
Round 4, No. 107 (from Rams): Jake Andrews, C (Troy) (signed)
Round 4, No. 112 (from Jets): Chad Ryland, K (Maryland) (signed)
Round 4, No. 117: Sidy Sow, G (Eastern Michigan) (signed)
Round 5, No. 144 (from Falcons from Raiders): Atonio Mafi, G (UCLA) (signed)
Round 6, No. 187 (from Panthers): Kayshon Boutte, WR (LSU) (signed)
Round 6, No. 192: Bryce Baringer, P (Michigan State) (signed)
Round 6, No. 210: Demario Douglas, WR (Liberty) (signed)
Round 6, No. 214 (from Raiders): Ameer Speed, DB (Michigan State) (signed)
Round 7, No. 245 (from Falcons through Bills): Isaiah Bolden, CB (Jackson State) (signed)

Jets Targeted T Broderick Jones; Latest On Patriots’ Trade Process

The Jets exited draft week with one of the biggest quarterback upgrades in many years, but they paid far more than it took to execute a similar transaction 15 years ago. It cost the Jets a conditional third-round pick to acquire Brett Favre‘s rights in 2008; the Aaron Rodgers trade cost New York a second-rounder, a likely 2024 first and a first-round pick swap this year. The last component here became key to start this draft.

Connected to tackles for weeks leading up to the draft, the Jets saw three of this year’s top four options — Paris Johnson, Darnell Wright, Peter Skoronski — go off the board between Nos. 6-11. With Broderick Jones still available at No. 14, the Steelers traded up one spot in front of the Jets — who moved from No. 13 to 15 in the Rodgers trade — to obtain the former Georgia blocker. This maneuver generated some attention in the days since.

Some around the league believe the Patriots made an effort to help ensure the Jets did not land the tackle they coveted at No. 15, with Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post noting select staffers viewed the Jets’ choice of Iowa State edge rusher Will McDonald as a bit of a panic move. The Jets were reported to have given Jones positive feedback on their “30” visit with the tackle, and La Canfora adds the team was targeting him at No. 15. Several GMs also said (via NBC Sports’ Peter King) they believed the Jets were planning to select Jones at No. 13, but the Rodgers trade gave the Packers that pick (which became Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness).

The Patriots sold the 14th pick to the Steelers, moving down three spots and picking up a fourth-round pick (No. 120) to do so. One GM whose team was monitoring a potential trade-up move with the Pats told La Canfora that Pittsburgh should have needed to fork over a third-rounder to move from 17 to 14 to land its potential long-term left tackle. The Giants gave up more than that — a fourth and a seventh — to move up from No. 25 to No. 24 later Thursday night. Rival execs viewed the Pats as giving the Steelers a friendly route to leapfrog the Jets, given the AFC East rivalry in play and Bill Belichick‘s checkered history (the 2000 hiring snafu and the 2007 Spygate whistle-blowing incident) with the organization.

Scouts Inc. rated McDonald 25th on its big board. Even if this was a perceived reach, far worse stretches have occurred in modern draft history. The undersized pass rusher joins a Jets team rostering Carl Lawson, Jermaine Johnson and John Franklin-Myers. Lawson’s contract expires after this season. At tackle, the Jets face more uncertainty.

Left tackle Duane Brown‘s two-year contract runs through 2023, but the veteran will turn 38 this year and is coming off surgery. The team declined Mekhi Becton‘s fifth-year option, and the once-promising left tackle has played one game over the past two seasons. Becton has lost more than 40 pounds and is on track to compete for the right tackle job again in training camp, but he cannot exactly be relied upon to anchor that spot. The team signed ex-Nathaniel Hackett Broncos and Packers charge Billy Turner on Monday; Turner missed nine games last season. Jones would have offered Gang Green a high-ceiling option, and if the one-year Georgia starter develops in Pittsburgh, the Jets’ 2023 draft plan will encounter more scrutiny.

The Patriots ended up with Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez at No. 17. Scouts Inc.’s No. 8 overall prospect, Gonzalez was not expected to fall that far. It is worth wondering what the Patriots’ tackle plan will be, seeing as Trent Brown is an annual injury risk and UFA pickup Riley Reiff is 34 and did not begin last season as the Bears’ right-side starter. But the Pats passed on Jones and loaded up on interior O-linemen on Day 3.

Belichick’s well-earned reputation for trading down aside, Pats director of player personnel Matt Groh said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss) a move up was in play. The team placed Gonzalez in a cluster of players with similar value, per’s Albert Breer, who adds second-round Pats pick Keion White was in that cluster. The Pats not viewing the Jets as likely to draft a corner contributed to the team’s decision to resume talks about trading down with the Steelers, Breer adds. Belichick hired ex-Steelers O-line coach Adrian Klemm to the same position. Klemm spent last season at Oregon, helping with Gonzalez intel. The Pats had not drafted a pure corner in Round 1 during Belichick’s previous 23 years at the helm.

The Pats attempted to move back into Round 1 later Thursday night, with Reiss indicating the team engaged multiple clubs in those talks. New England’s actual trade, depending on who you believe, may have left the Jets scrambling. Jones’ Pittsburgh path could make for an interesting “what if?” for the Jets, who may need to make another tackle investment as Rodgers readies for his New York debut.

Titans Host DE Keion White, WR Zay Flowers, CB Cam Smith

With the deadline for pre-draft visits approaching, teams around the league continue to do as much homework as possible on prospects they could be in range to select. For the Titans, that process has included hosting high-end players on both sides of the ball.

Tennessee recently met with defensive end Keion White and wide receiver Zay Flowers, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter links). White is one of the more intriguing members of this year’s edge rushing class, one which is thought to have a number of potential first-rounders beyond the likes of Will Anderson, Tyree Wilson, Nolan Smith and Lukas Van Ness.

White began his college career at Old Dominion after operating as a two-way player at the high school level. He played tight end in 2018, but then switched to defensive end full-time the following season. His 19 tackles for loss in 2019 led to heightened expectations upon his transfer to Georgia Tech. As a member of the Yellow Jackets, he put himself in the first-round conversation with 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss during the 2022 campaign.

Those figures could be a sign of things to come as the 6-4, 267-pounder is still relatively early in his time spent exclusively as a pass rusher. The Titans could be in the market for a high-end addition in that department, after moving on from veteran Bud Dupree earlier this offseason. Tennessee ranked 18th in the league in sacks in 2022, and is in need of long-term edge producers to compliment defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who is in the team’s plans for the foreseeable future.

Likewise, a receiver addition early in the draft would come as no surprise. The Titans struggled in the passing game last season as they began life after A.J. Brown. They used a first-round pick on Treylon Burks in 2022, but more additions should be expected as they look to take a step forward on offense. Flowers has moved up many draft boards following a 1,000-yard campaign in 2022, and he has taken several visits with teams scattered across the first-round order.

The same is also true of cornerback Cam Smith, whom the Titans hosted (Twitter link via Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport). The South Carolina product is part of a very deep CB class, and has generated attention from several teams looking to add him in the late first or early second round. Tennessee has invested heavily at the cornerback spot recently, using first- or second-round selections on Kristian Fulton, Caleb Farley and Roger McCreary in three consecutive years. They also signed Sean Murphy-Bunting in free agency, which should give them a number of options in the secondary.

Tennessee holds the 11th overall pick, one which has been connected to a potential trade-up for a quarterback. If they stay put, though, that selection would be considered a reach for any of White, Flowers or Smith. The Titans’ next pick is No. 41, by which point any or all of them could quite possibly be off the board. If they are able land one of them, however, the team will have done its due diligence ahead of time.