The rush of winning a Super Bowl is still fresh for the Buccaneers and their fans. However, Jason Licht and the front office don’t have the luxury of celebrating much longer with free agency just a few weeks away. With free agency comes many tough decisions for the Bucs as they have several key free agents they would like to return but with limited cap space and some hefty bills, it will be difficult for the team to bring everyone back.
Licht and co. had an A+ offseason in 2020 bringing in Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, and others, all of whom played crucial roles in the Bucs championship run. Coincidence or not, Gronkowski and Brown were the recipients of all three of Brady’s touchdown passes in the Super Bowl, and another 2020 acquisition, Leonard Fournette, scored the other. Although there will be some players who move on, all three of those players are free agents, could another free agent acquisition improve the Bucs’ odds of going back-to-back?
The answer is an emphatical YES if that free agent is a former Patriot named James White.
Fournette and to a lesser extent, Lesean McCoy, were brought in to add another dimension to the backfield. More specifically, their primary job was to be the pass-catching back Brady has always been accustomed to. McCoy was used sparingly and Fournette struggled early on but turned in an impressive late-season and playoff performance. Both players will likely move on for different reasons so there will be a need with just Ronald Jones and 2020 third-round pick, Keshawn Vaughn. Enter White.
White was drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots in 2014 has won three Super Bowls with the team. The former Wisconsin Badger played sparingly his rookie season but broke out with 40 receptions in 2015. Over the next four seasons, White averaged 69 receptions, 594 yards, and five touchdowns a year. Three of those seasons ended in a Patriots Super Bowl appearance with two culminating in a championship. In the playoffs, White took it to another level. In 12 postseason games in that span, White hauled in 52 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns. He added another 130 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries. Had it not been for Brady’s performance in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons, White would have been the runaway winner of the MVP award.
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Brady would have gladly given the MVP award to White that day and has expressed the highest of praise for his former (for now?) teammate.
“James White is like my oldest son,” said Brady in early 2017 after the Patriots’ victory over the Falcons. “He just does everything right and you can never get mad at him. If he doesn’t make the play, he feels worse about it than you do. He’s just the best teammate.”
29 at the start of the 2021 season, White has plenty left in the tank as he has never been asked to be the traditional “workhorse” running back and that wouldn’t be the case with Jones’ presence on the Buccaneers’ roster. Jones had a solid 2020 season rushing for 978 yards on 192 carries and hitting paydirt seven times. He added another touchdown in the air, one of his 28 receptions. There is nothing to suggest Jones won’t enter the season as the teams’ top back with a larger role carved out for Vaughn which leaves a nice role and opportunity for White.
— Full Press Buccaneers (@FPC_Buccaneers) February 22, 2021
White signed a three-year, $12 million contract back in 2017 with the Patriots and likely could come affordable for the Buccaneers who are dealing with a tight cap situation and a number of in-house free agents to take care of. In the inevitability that one or more offensive players leave in free agency, White would fill a need and offer another familiar face that should fit seamlessly within an offense we saw catch fire in the second half of the season.