There is a good chance that by the end of NFL free agency AJ Dillon will be the only running back on the Green Bay Packers’ roster.
Aaron Jones will get a ton of money, and the Packers do not have the cap space to pay him. Jamaal Williams is a locker room and fan favorite, but there have to be teams who saw his talent these last four years and are willing to give him a big enough contract to leave Green Bay. No one wants it to happen, but fans also need to be realistic. Money still talks.
Williams just fired the same agent that Jones had, which possibly means he wasn’t happy with the possible in-house offers. He has said several times he wants to stay in Green Bay, though. But unless he takes a team-friendly deal, Williams might be moving on too. Tyler Ervin’s time with the Pack is probably over as well.
With 10 picks in the 2021 draft, the Packers may draft a running back or two. But every team needs experience and versatility. So why not bring in a University of Wisconsin legend and veteran presence? That perfect candidate would be James White.
New England Patriots
The Patriots drafted White in the fourth round of the 2014 draft with the 130th overall pick. He was only active for three games in his rookie season and wasn’t in uniform when New England won the Super Bowl that year.
In 2015, the Florida native cemented his role as a committee running and receiving back for New England. He had 22 rushes for 56 yards and two touchdowns. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when it comes to yearly stats, receiving is where White shines. He had 40 receptions for 410 yards and four touchdowns his second NFL season.
Although his stats fluctuated each year, his versatility as a receiving back always helped New England. Between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he had 337 rushing yards for no touchdowns and 116 receptions for 980 yards and eight touchdowns.
After the 2017 season, White signed a three-year, $12 million contract, which included a $4 million signing bonus and incentives. Over those three years, he had 809 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. On the receiving side, he had 1,771 yards and 13 touchdowns. His contributions to Brady’s passing game were significant.
White has always competed for space on the depth chart. Since he was drafted, the Patriots also had Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, Steven Jackson, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and Damien Harris. The ex-Badger always was impressive given that he usually had to compete with three other backs every year.
This season was definitely a down year for White. Nobody can blame him. The 28-year-old lost his father in a car crash in Florida. His mother was also seriously injured in the accident and had to recover during the season. White missed a few games because of the crash but definitely dropped down the depth chart and wasn’t the same player. It’s almost surprising he came back to play.
The Patriots had a difficult year in general. They went 7-9 and missed the playoffs without Tom Brady under center. White finished with 121 yards rushing with two touchdowns and 375 yards receiving with one touchdown. It was his least productive season since his rookie year. With Damien Harris emerging, chances are New England will be moving on from White.
White in Green Bay?
With a down year but still plenty of career left, James White would be great as an option to put behind AJ Dillon. Dillon would be the workhorse and premier back, with White a great second option.
He fits perfectly with Matt LaFleur’s offense. Going into his third year as head coach, LaFleur is sure to call up plenty of screen passes, routes, end-arounds, and receiving options that would get White involved. He would be a great change-of-pace back if Dillon is busy running defenses over.
He would also help Dillon enhance the receiving game. Who would turn down a chance to catch passes from last year’s MVP, Aaron Rodgers?
Want to guess White’s yearly reception average with New England? 53. That’s a lot. If you want to compare, Aaron Jones averaged 33 a season, and Jamaal Williams averaged 30 and a half. That would be a huge upgrade in receiving experience for LaFleur to use and Dillon to learn from. And, knowing the Packers, there will also be a speedy fifth- or sixth-round pick ready to help them out too. They better be able to return punts and kicks. Please let them be able to return punts and kicks.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
The running back position in Green Bay is up in the air, but it doesn’t hurt to start looking at options. The Packers can’t sign a lot of bigger-name free agents, yet they can still get the attention of a former Wisconsin running back who is looking for a bounce-back year on a Super Bowl-contending team.
If Jones and Williams don’t re-sign with the green and gold, targets like James White should be on the top of their list. The team is a couple of pieces away from winning a Super Bowl after a decade-long drought with Rodgers. Many folks thought the 2020 season was their year, but it doesn’t mean that 2021 can’t be. James White is a back who can help achieve that.