The Bucs got their man. Shortly after it was reported that Tampa was pursuing former Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette, the Bucs agreed to terms with the 2017 first-rounder, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network (via Grant Gordon of NFL.com).
It will be a one-year deal worth up to $3.5MM. Fournette will take home a base salary of $2MM and will have the chance to earn an extra $1.5MM in incentives based on rushing yards and playing time. Plus, since Fournette’s deal with the Jags did not include offset language, he could still pocket the $4.2MM that he was due to earn this year prior to being waived by Jacksonville if he wins his grievance against his former club.
Tampa was said to be interested in Fournette earlier this year and reportedly engaged in trade talks with Jacksonville. Ultimately, the Bucs were able to acquire him without sacrificing any draft capital, but their RB room has become pretty crowded. In addition to incumbent Ronald Jones, Tampa added Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais in the draft and signed veteran LeSean McCoy in July.
Prior to the Fournette signing, the team continued to tout Jones as its RB1, but Fournette is clearly the better back, even if he hasn’t quite lived up to his status as a former No. 4 overall pick. And since McCoy was signed for the veteran minimum, some have speculated that the Bucs could release him, though Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network says that Shady remains in the team’s plans (Twitter link). Fournette did pick up 76 receptions out of the backfield last year, but he may see most of his work on first and second downs while McCoy becomes a third-down/passing game complement.
Fournette added 265 carries for 1,152 yards in 2019, good for a career-high 4.3 yards-per-carry average. He now has a prime opportunity to truly break out in what is shaping up to be a prolific offense.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.