Short of the Patriots landing a top-tier veteran quarterback there may be no news more welcome today that this.
Losing James White in free agency felt inevitable. But at the same time, it wasn't pinging a lot of Patriots fans' sonar for some reason. I mean, no one wanted it, but in the harsh realities of footballconomics, it seemed like a fait accompli. After seven seasons in New England, he'd reached the end of his coveted second contract. Which is usually a time when you cash in elsewhere for that one last deal before retirement. And at age 28, with White's resume' and his reputation, you just assumed someone would bowl him over with an offer and make that happen. Particularly one of the Florida teams, since his mother, who was badly injured in the crash that killed his father last September, lives there.
But the conventional wisdom was wrong. Either there wasn't a market for his services or he just had no desire to leave. Or a combination of the two. We'll find out in time. For now all that matters now is that the running back on the Patriots All Decade Team for the 2010s is back. And it works on so many levels, I have to take them one by one.
First is the emotional level, which is a huge part of this. Long before he had to work his way through a shocking personal tragedy a few months back, White was a long time favorite among players, coaches and fans alike. Like Kevin Faulk before him, the mid-sized, mid-round draft pick who more than just made the roster and stuck around. But who turned himself into a potent weapon and one of the most clutch weapons in the league catching passes out of the backfield and made championship play after championship goddamned play.
I'd preface this with, "in case you forgot," except exactly no one forgets:
Nor does anyone forget his 14 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown added to his six carries for 29 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 2-point conversion in that one. A 20-point performance so impressive it inspired the actual Super Bowl MVP to give the car they presented him to White for being the true MVP.
Next, there's what White's return means in pure football terms. When we went to bed last night, the only running backs on the roster were Sony Michel, Damien Harris and JJ Taylor. Meaning they not only needed bodies, they needed someone with skills as a receiver. Taylor may develop in time. He's certainly got the speed for it. But no one's ready to count on him now based on his one reception in six games last year. Even coming off what was, for him, a relatively down year (49 receptions, 375 yards, 7.7 average, 7 TDs, down from 87/751/8.6/1 two years prior), he still finished with the second most catches and third most yards and 1st downs on the team.
Lastly, this move scratches Pass Catching RB off the top of their draft shopping list. It's still there, to be sure. But it's no longer the priority it would've been without White. Now they can afford to take a flyer on a mid-tier 3rd down back on like Day 3 of the draft and let a guy develop behind White. Just as they did with White himself back in 2014, when he appeared in just three games behind Shane Vereen (52 receptions, 447 yards). Which frees up the two picks they have in the Top 50 and the three in the Top 100 can be used on a higher priority target.
But that's for later. For now, let's just stick to the emotional. It's great to have him back. And an incredible March rolls on in New England. Thanks, and happy anniversary of the Glass of Juice that made meme history.