James White has won over Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and Co., with his steadiness and continued improvement, elevating from a player who was inactive in Super Bowl XLIX to becoming unquestionably the Patriots' go-to guy in the all-important "passing back" role. White played 30 snaps as a rookie in 2014; upped it to 290 in 2015; and played 425 last season.
As for 2017, White is one of three running backs who are considered locks to make the roster based on contract status, along with Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead. Lewis is also likely to be there, while second-year man D.J. Foster has also shown promise.
White has now seized the spot with authority.
Coming off of an injury, Lewis played in 10 games last year, including the playoffs, and averaged 11.1 touches (8.9 carries, 2.2 catches) for 49 yards and 0.2 touchdowns, or 8.3 PPR fantasy points per game. He averaged 17.5 PPG in seven games in 2015, so his role was clearly reduced last year. White's role in the running game is minimal -- what's important is his role in the passing game after Lewis returned. In nine games without Lewis, White averaged 3.7 catches for 32 yards and 0.33 TD per game. After Lewis returned, White averaged 3.4 catches for 32 yards and 0.33 TD in the nine games leading up to the Super Bowl, so it appears that his passing down role remained mostly unchanged after Lewis returned. Of course, White had a huge performance in the Super Bowl, turning 20 touches (14 catches) into 139 yards and three touchdowns, and it appears that he's now entrenched as the passing down back. The Patriots don't seem inclined to give him as many carries as they would Lewis, though his 4.3 YPC in 2016 was an improvement. White is currently the 50th RB off the board in early MFL10s (PPR drafts), and he's a fantastic value in that format if this report that he has "seized" the passing down role is true. There’s always the chance that the Patriots turn back to Lewis if White gets a case of fumble-itis, but White should have enough leash to overcome a turnover or two.
It looked like Blount might return to New England, but he'll join Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey in Philadelphia. Ryan Mathews is still on the roster, though the working assumption is that he'll eventually be a cap casualty. Blount is a good fit personnel-wise for the Eagles, and his arrival is bad news for Smallwood and Pumphrey, who are vying for touches alongside Sproles. In New England, the signing is very good news for Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, who figure to replace Blount's production in the lineup. Gillislee looks like a terrific value since he's likely the goal line back.
Michael Floyd's short foray into unemployment has ended.
The maligned former first-round pick is signing with the Minnesota Vikings after a quiet free agency, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the situation. Floyd, 27, most recently played with the New England Patriots. He was dismissed from the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 14 -- two days after he was arrested on drunken driving charges in Scottsdale, Arizona.
At one point, Floyd was a 24-year-old receiver with good size (6'3") and speed (4.47 40-yard dash) who was coming off of a 65-catch, 1,041-yard sophomore season with the Cardinals. Since then, his targets dropped for four consecutive seasons and the Cardinals ultimately cut him. He'll get a fresh start in Minnesota, though he'll have to compete with another first round pick (Laquon Treadwell) for playing time.
Over the past two seasons, he has gained 844 yards on 148 carries (5.7 YPC) and found the end zone 12 times (11 rush, 1 rec). In fact, among running backs with at least eight rush attempts inside the opponent's 5-yard line over the past two seasons, Gillislee is tied with LeVeon Bell for the highest touchdown conversion rate (70.0%) in the league. Gillislee's arrival takes a lot of the wind out of Rex Burkhead's sails. Burkhead was probably going to see most of the goal line work, but given Gillislee's talents in that are, he'll probably handle those duties. Double digit touchdowns are possible if Gillislee holds down that role for the entire year. It's going to be tough to predict the Patriots' backfield on a weekly basis. In Buffalo, this cements LeSean McCoy's status as a top 5 fantasy back since he's now likely to see an increase in goal line attempts. Jonathan Williams likely serves as his primary back up, though the Bills may address the position in the draft.
Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis are signed through 2017, so White gives the team some long-term stability at the position if one or both were to walk next spring. White is more of a receiver than a runner, so his value is enhanced in PPR formats. If the Patriots are able to wrestle Mike Gillislee away from the Bills, this is going to be a very tough backfield to predict on a weekly basis.
The Bills have five days to match the offer or lose Gillislee for a 5th round pick. Over the past two seasons, he has gained 844 yards on 148 carries (5.7 YPC) and found the end zone 12 times (11 rush, 1 rec). In fact, among running backs with at least eight rush attempts inside the opponent's 5-yard line over the past two seasons, Gillislee is tied with LeVeon Bell for the highest touchdown conversion rate (70.0%) in the league. If the Bills decline to match the offer, it should free up red zone touches for LeSean McCoy. In New England, Gillislee's arrival would put a serious dent in Rex Burkhead's upside, since he's currently first in line for goal line duties. Gillislee could conceivably assume LeGarrette Blount's role in the offense.
LeGarrette Blount wanted a team to “give me some money.”
The Patriots, at least to some degree, are willing.
New England is known for not overly investing at running back, often allowing even its most productive veterans to walk via free agency. Blount currently has an “offer on the table” from the Patriots, Mike Giardi of CSN New England reported Friday. This is less a development and more an update on where the situation stands. That Blount has yet to accept indicates the deal’s numbers and/or structure do not meet his expectation.
The team hosted Adrian Peterson Monday but it's believed the price wasn't right and the story went on to say Blount, at the right price, seems like the preferred option.
Surprise, surprise, Ben Roethlisberger will not retire.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback announced via Twitter that he informed the team he's looking forward to playing his 14th NFL season. "Steeler Nation will get my absolute best," he wrote.
After a playoff loss to the New England Patriots, Roethlisberger said he was contemplating retirement, noting he wanted to "evaluate" all his options.
It's fair for a 34-year-old to think about the future and spending more time with his family, especially after a playoff loss, the story said. But it didn't seem believable Big Ben would walk away with so much left in the tank on a team with enough talent to reach a Super Bowl, especially on offense.
The five-year veteran, who is best known for his special teams work, has rushed for 845 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also caught 46 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns. During the week leading up to Super Bowl LI, quarterback Tom Brady was highly complimentary of Bolden, who had two special teams tackles during the win.
According to Ian Rapoport of The NFL Network, LeGarrette Blount remains an option in New England.
"I know LeGarrette Blount would like to return to the Patriots, I know the Patriots would like him back," Rapoport said. "But at this point, the salary has not been more than some of the other running backs on the roster already make, especially some of the newly acquired ones in Rex Burkhead, so they're just not there yet as far as getting LeGarrette Blount back in the fold for the Patriots. Maybe this spurs things along, or maybe he's able to get a visit somewhere that will let the Patriots know that he has other suitors."
Before his Wrestlemania appearance last night, Gronkowski told ESPN he was recovered from back surgery and ready to get back to work.
“I’m feeling great. I’m good to go,” Gronkowski said. “It’s been about four months now [since surgery]. Just been back with the team a lot during the week, doing my rehab with the trainers there. I’m feeling good. I’ll be ready to roll when [the] offseason program starts. Super excited to get back on the field.”
New England begins its offseason program in two weeks with OTAs scheduled for May 22.
If a potential contract is closer to minimum levels, or structured in a way in which it is heavy with incentives, maybe it could be a fit for Bill Belichick's club. Or, at the least, the Patriots now have more motivation to explore if it could be a fit.
That seems like the best way to sum up Monday's meeting.
Many didn't think Peterson would be a fit for the Pats, mainly because of cost. It's also a deep RB class in this year's draft and Peterson is challenged in pass protection. The Pats could use a power back, however, and it seems as if they are doing their due diligence with Peterson.
Before he was hired as Browns head coach last season, Hue Jackson worked closely with Rex Burkhead for three years and saw the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder's versatile skill set on a daily basis. With the Patriots, under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Jackson believes Burkhead has a chance to see that skill set maximized.
"He's very talented," Jackson said during the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "He's a guy that was playing behind some very talented players [with the Bengals], and so he's going to get his opportunity now, and he's going to flourish. He's a really good player. A really good player.
"He's very versatile because he's a good runner, a good pass-catcher. He's a good blocker. He's very bright. He's been a sensational special teams player there so he brings a lot of different elements to that football team."
With Giovani Bernard sidelined, Burkhead averaged 10.8 touches for 56 yards as the change-of-pace back. Then, in Week 17 with Jeremy Hill also out, Burkhead turned in an epic 29-touch, 144-yard, two-touchdown effort against the Ravens. As a junior at Nebraska, Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns. He's currently first in line for goal line carries and could see his role grow from there.
The New England Patriots announced the signing of the free agent running back, who joins the team after four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Burkhead represents the seventh addition to the Patriots' roster this offseason.
A former sixth-round pick out of Nebraska, Burkhead proved himself as a third option for the Bengals during his four years with the team. Burkhead rushed for 344 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2016, despite sharing time with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The running back also added 145 yards receiving out of the backfield.
The 26-year-old posted a breakout game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, rushing for 119 yards on 27 carried to go along with two touchdowns.
With Giovani Bernard sidelined, Burkhead averaged 10.8 touches for 56 yards as the change-of-pace back. Then, in Week 17 with Jeremy Hill also out, Burkhead turned in an epic 29-touch, 144-yard, two-touchdown effort against the Ravens. As a junior at Nebraska, Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns. Burkhead is similar in skillset to Dion Lewis and James White, though he's bigger. Even though LeGarrette Blount is 40 lbs heavier, Burkhead could assume some of Blount's work on early downs.
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