New England Patriots

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)

The Patriots’ reported signing of running back James Robinson initially came with some sticker shock.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Wednesday night that Robinson is joining the Patriots on a two-year deal with a “max value” of $8 million. That phrase “max value” is all-important. And it’s the reason that precisely zero people should have reacted to this move with any shred of outrage.

The Robinson contract is not guaranteed to hit $8 million – in fact, it probably won’t come close.

  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported more details of the deal on Thursday morning. First and foremost, only $1.25 million is guaranteed. It’s possible Robinson literally averages $625,000 per season. That might mean he didn’t work out, but it would also mean the signing was just incredibly inconsequential to the Patriots’ finances.

    Further, the contract has a base value of just $4.5 million, per Volin. The other $3.5 million is available via performance-based incentives, $1.75M per season.

    The incentives are likely related to pure playing time, as well as production. You can be certain that if Robinson hits any of the incentives, it means things are going well. But I suppose this part of the country can still find ways to complain when things are going well.

  • 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)

  • Not to mention, the Patriots DID have an opening for a running back. Maybe you think it’s stupid for them to even get another running back, after drafting two in 2022 with Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr., on top of the emergence of Rhamondre Stevenson as a game-breaker at his position. But you know what would be stupid? Going into the season with only three guys, two of which are still unproven at this level, and the third coming off a season with 279 touches.

    Robinson is a proven producer as both a runner and pass-catcher. The concerns are injuries and recent performance. He entered the 2022 season having recovered from a torn Achilles tendon in 2021. The Jets acquired him mid-season after losing Breece Hall to a torn ACL, but only played him for four games before sitting him as a healthy scratch down the stretch of the season.

    So that was a weird situation for Robinson. The hope is that he can regain the form he showed in 2020 with the Jaguars, when he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and made 49 catches while totaling 1,414 yards from scrimmage. There’s a chance he barely plays or even makes the team out of camp.

    But that’s the point. What is the big friggin’ deal about this?!

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  • None of this is to say that the Patriots NEEDED to specifically get James Robinson, or that he’s going to be a superstar. The point is it’s always good to have depth at this position, and Bill Belichick has always valued having a deep group of backs. The Patriots were going to go into the season with minimum four running backs on the roster, and certainly don’t want to end up like the Jets, having to scramble to get someone in the middle of the season because they didn’t reinforce themselves.

    Better to have your stable ready at the start of the season, and go “Next Man Up” from there. Stevenson gets hurt, time to see more Robinson, and hopefully Harris and Strong, too. At the very least, this signing should not have been in any way surprising to anyone paying attention to the team.

    If you got legitimately upset at the Robinson addition, just know they were going to add someone. Probably will throw a fit if they draft a back too, right? If that’s you, please relaxxx and accept that this has always been their approach and will continue to be as long as Belichick is around.

    And it won’t cost them much, either.

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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.