New England Patriots

Oct 16, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) runs the ball while Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart (90) defends in the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots may end up paying running back James Robinson next-to-nothing, but if they end up giving him the max value of his contract, that means things have gone extremely well.

It was already discovered that Robinson’s two-year deal, which came with some sticker shock initially, is low on guaranteed money and high on bonuses and incentives. Thanks to a new report, we now know what those incentives entail. And again, if he ends up hitting them, that’s great news.

  • As reported by Doug Kyed of AtoZ Sports, half of the $8 million max value is in incentives. Robinson has five yardage-based benchmarks to hit for $400,000 a pop, in each of the two seasons. The milestones to hit are 450, 600, 800, 1,000, and 1,200 rushing yards.

  • Incentives can be classified as likely or not likely to be earned, with the former counting against the salary cap. Robinson totaled 425 rushing yards between the Jaguars and Jets in 2022, so the Patriots could feasibly classify all of his incentives as not likely to be earned.

    However, Robinson rushed for 767 yards in 2021 and 1,070 yards in 2020 for Jacksonville, so he’s certainly capable of hitting at least the lower end of his incentives with New England. If he stays healthy and active, he could get closer to the 164 carries he got in 2021, even as part of a committee with Rhamondre Stevenson atop the depth chart.

    Running back James Robinson made his Jets debut with just five carries vs. the Pats, before rushing 13 times vs. Buffalo. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Running back James Robinson made his Jets debut with just five carries vs. the Pats, before rushing 13 times vs. Buffalo. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

  • But even with a full, healthy season and solid workload, Robinson will be hard-pressed to reach the high end of the incentives on his contract. The last Patriots running back to top 1,200 rushing yards in a season was Stevan Ridley in 2012 (1,263). Only two running backs have even topped 1,000 yards since: LaGarrette Blount in 2016 (1,161), and Stevenson last season (1,040).

    So, like we said. If Robinson somehow hits 1,000 or even 1,200 yards, that means he’s enjoyed a career renaissance. It probably means things are going quite well up front on the offensive line. And it likely means Mac Jones has enjoyed a huge bounce-back and Bill O’Brien has turned the entire offense around. Not to mention, the Patriots are probably firmly in the AFC playoff mix.

    Don’t bank on it, by any means. But it’s worth noting that Robinson and other free-agent signings are about as low-risk, high-reward as they get.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.