Leonard Fournette

RB Leonard Fournette Discusses Future With Buccaneers

Following a playoff run that saw him score four total touchdowns, Leonard Fournette could be eying a pay increase in 2021. However, when all is said and done, the running back would like to stick with the Buccaneers.

[RELATED: Buccaneers Interested In Re-Signing Leonard Fournette]

“We’ll see,” Fournette said during an appearance on ESPN (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “Right now, I’m just enjoying the process right now with this W with this organization and my team. You never know what the future holds for me right now, you know? I wound up ending on a great note. I’d love to be back. We’ll have to talk to my agent and see what they’re talking about.”

The former fourth-overall pick was unceremoniously let go by the Jaguars at the end of the 2020 preseason. He ultimately had to settle for a one-year, $2MM deal with Tampa Bay, and he served as Ronald Jones‘ backup during the early parts of the season. Fournette filled in as starter in Week 15, and he didn’t let go of that role through the rest of the season and playoffs. He brought his best during the postseason, collecting four scores and 448 yards from scrimmage in four games.

Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, and Kenyan Drake sit atop the free agent market, but Fournette could easily slide into that second tier of free agent running backs. It’s conceivable that the Buccaneers could look to pay up for Fournette’s services; Ronald Jones only has a year remaining on his contract, leaving 2020 third-rounder Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the only long-term answer at the position. On the flip side, the Buccaneers may find it’s more responsible to pursue ring-chasing veterans instead up paying up to retain Fournette.

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Buccaneers Interested In Re-Signing Leonard Fournette

The Buccaneers would like to bring Leonard Fournette back for another season (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). As it stands, Fournette has just one game — the Super Bowl — left on his contract.

Fournette joined the Bucs on one-year deal worth up to $3.5MM in September. Over the last year, he’s served as a solid RB2 behind Ronald Jones II, notching 3.8 yards per carry in 13 games. Fournette also snagged 36 passes for 233 yards, giving him 600 all-purpose yards for the year.

As the centerpiece of the Jaguars’ offense, Fournette faced stacked boxes on 39% of his carries from 2017-19. With the Bucs, he’s surrounded by a number of offensive weapons, forcing defenses to keep things honest. Fournette’s stats don’t exactly jump off of the page, but the Bucs like what they’ve gotten out of the former No. 4 overall pick.

Still, the Bucs may look to lock up Jones for the long haul, which would cut into available funds for Fournette. Some wondered if the former Jags star would leapfrog Jones this year — he responded with 5.1 ypc for a career season.

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NFC South Notes: Bucs, Forbath, Saints

Currently in the Buccaneers‘ concussion protocol, Chris Godwin may miss their Week 2 game against the Panthers. But the 2019 breakout wide receiver still looms as a candidate to sign a lucrative extension. The fourth-year wideout is willing to be patient ahead of his next contract, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com noting (Insider link) the former third-round pick is willing to negotiate with the Bucs through the franchise tag or ahead of free agency. In April, Jason Licht said the team wants Godwin around for the long haul.

The Bucs already authorized a $16.5MM-per-year deal for Mike Evans — one of just two players ever to start a career with six straight 1,000-yard seasons (along with Randy Moss) — and the receiver market has ballooned since. A Godwin deal could come in north of $20MM annually, which would put Evans in a bit of a strange spot. With Godwin and Evans a big part of Tom Brady‘s two-year Tampa Bay commitment, the younger of the two Pro Bowl Bucs wideouts stands in good position as his contract season begins.

Here is the latest from Tampa and other NFC South cities:

  • Lavonte David began negotiating with the Bucs on another extension nearly three weeks ago. The sides have not made much progress, but Fowler notes David wants to retire as a Buccaneer. The 2012 second-round pick signed a five-year, $50.25MM deal in 2015. David joins Godwin as a contract-year Buccaneer, so the team will need to address one of these deals before free agency — in order to keep the franchise tag free for the other. David, 30, led all linebackers with 724 solo tackles during the 2010s and can conceivably push for a deal in the Bobby Wagner neighborhood ($18MM AAV).
  • Godwin and Evans represent a key reason why Leonard Fournette opted for a Tampa stay. The former Jaguars running back said the weapons the Bucs possess played a role in him agreeing to head to south Florida, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. As the centerpiece of the Jaguars’ offense for a while, Fournette faced stacked boxes on 39% of his carries from 2017-19, Palmer notes. Fournette received six touches in his Bucs debut but figures to become a bigger part of the offense in the games to come.
  • In addition to trading for Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs made another move to accommodate their new quarterback. They have given Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, an office at their facility, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Patriots did this at one point too but removed the TB12 co-architect’s office later. Guerrero is working with Brady, Gronk and several other Bucs, per La Canfora, who adds that some believe the Pats souring on Guerrero helped lead Brady out of New England.
  • The Panthers worked out Kai Forbath on Thursday. Second-year kicker Joey Slye, whom the team went with over former Pro Bowler Graham Gano, made all three of his field goal tries in Week 1 but missed a PAT. Slye missed four extra points last season. Carolina does not have a kicker on its practice squad.
  • Panthers rookie UDFA Sam Franklin has moved from linebacker to safety, according to defensive coordinator Phil Snow (via The Athletic’s Joe Person, on Twitter). Franklin’s primary role still figures to be special teams this season. He played 18 special teams snaps against the Raiders compared to just two on defense.
  • The Saints worked out defensive lineman Anthony Zettel on Thursday. The journeyman D-lineman signed a one-year Vikings deal earlier this year but did not stick on their roster.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Clowney, Bucs

Before Jadeveon Clowney signed with the Titans, the Saints attempted to orchestrate a sign-and-trade in order to land the star edge rusher — but the NFL put the kibosh on such a maneuver, as Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com write. In the proposed scenario, an unidentified team (widely believed to be the Browns) would have signed Clowney to a one-year deal with a $5MM signing bonus and a $10MM base salary.

Clowney then would have been dealt to the Saints in exchange for a second-round pick, per the NFL scribes. The mystery team would have absorbed the $5MM signing bonus on its salary cap, giving the cap-strapped Saints the breathing room they would have needed in order to acquire Clowney. But the league office gave word it wouldn’t approve a deal that amounted to trading cap space.

“We felt like we got close,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (Twitter link). “We weren’t able to match the money, and that’s one of the challenges every year. Mickey (Loomis) and Khai (Harley) did a great job working with (Clowney’s agent).” The Ravens may have also attempted a sign-and-trade strategy to land Clowney, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk indicates Baltimore tried to arrange a similar strategy involving the Jaguars. Tennessee ultimately landed Clowney on a one-year, $13MM pact that includes $2MM in incentives.

  • Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans is dealing with a hamstring injury and could be a game-time decision for Sunday’s tilt against the Saints, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Evans ended last season on injured reserve with a hamstring issue, but he hadn’t missed any time during camp, so the injury must have flared up recently. If Evans is forced to miss Week 1, Chris Godwin could see even more targets than usual, while Justin Watson and Scotty Miller would likely become more involved in Tampa Bay’s offense.
  • The Buccaneers‘ backfield split became extremely murky following the addition of Leonard Fournette, but head coach Bruce Arians says Ronald Jones is still the club’s starter, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Of course, Arians has been anything but fully truthful when it comes to running back touches over the years, but Jones should at least get the first snap of 2020. Arians said Fournette will have a “situational role” in Week 1 (Twitter link via Pewter Report), while LeSean McCoy should still be a factor on passing downs. Tampa Bay also worked out a number of running backs, including veteran Kenjon Barner, earlier this week, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com.
  • Saints owner Gayle Benson has thankfully recovered after contracting COVID-19 in August, as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk writes. The 73-year-old Benson was not forced to spend any time in the hospital while quarantined, and was still able to take part in team business.

Buccaneers Sign RB Leonard Fournette

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.

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Buccaneers Pursuing RB Leonard Fournette

Let’s add another team to the list of potential Leonard Fournette suitors. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the Buccaneers are among the teams “making a push” for the running back. Albert Breer of TheMMQB is hearing similar things, with the reporter tweeting that Tampa Bay has “emerged as a serious suitor” for Fournette.

The Buccaneers’ offense has received a major makeover this offseason, with Tom Brady, LeSean McCoy, and Rob Gronkowski joining wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. However, thanks to the team’s lavish spending, the front office doesn’t have a whole lot of financial flexibility; Greg Auman of The Athletic estimates on Twitter that the Bucs could only offer Fournette around $1.9MM without having to make another move.

While Tampa Bay may have added McCoy, the team has continued to tout Ronald Jones as their starter. The former second-rounder had a breakout campaign in 2019, finishing with 724 rushing yards and six scores on 172 carries. Of course, that production doesn’t hold a candle to Fournette, who finished last season with 1,152 rushing yards on 265 carries. He also added 76 receptions for 522 yards.

The 25-year-old was waived by the Jaguars earlier this week, and we’re naturally hearing about potential suitors. Earlier today, we heard that the Patriots could be a fit for the running back. Meanwhile, the Bears reportedly won’t pursue the former fourth-overall pick.

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Patriots Interested In Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette cleared waivers Tuesday and has at least one suitor as a free agent. The Patriots have expressed interest in the former No. 4 overall pick, Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets.

The Pats saw 2018 first-rounder Sony Michel miss time again during training camp, and although recent signing Lamar Miller has been cleared and 2019 third-round pick Damien Harris has impressed, New England’s backfield is somewhat muddled as the regular season approaches.

Despite the Jaguars waiving Fournette, he should garner interest from more than just the Patriots. The LSU product has two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume. He played a key role in helping a Blake Bortles-quarterbacked team to the 2017 AFC championship game, where the Jags narrowly lost to the Patriots.

Last season, Fournette rushed for a career-high 1,152 yards. However, he has only cleared 4.0 yards per carry once in a season (2019) and slumped through an injury- and suspension-marred 2018 slate. Fournette, 25, does not offer much in the passing game, but the Patriots have a veteran passing-down specialist in James White.

New England returns Michel, Rex Burkhead and White from its 2019 rotation but signed Miller last month. Miller is attempting to return from a torn ACL. Neither he nor Michel is eligible to be stashed on the Pats’ reserve/PUP list.

Thus far, however, the Patriots represent Fournette’s only known suitor. The Bears, who are without David Montgomery currently, are not looking to sign him.

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Bears Won’t Pursue Leonard Fournette

The Bears have been connected to Leonard Fournette, but it doesn’t sound like the former Jaguars standout will be coming to Chicago. When asked about the former No. 4 overall pick, head coach Matt Nagy told reporters that he’s comfortable with his current group of running backs (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson).

The Jaguars released Fournette earlier this week and all 31 of the league’s other teams passed on claiming the remainder of his contract. Fournette would have earned nearly $4.2MM for 2020, and that price tag was too high for everyone else. Now, Fournette is a full-fledged free agent, but he’ll likely have to settle for less money than he wanted.

Fournette totaled a career-high 1,674 yards from scrimmage last season, but Jay Gruden wasn’t a huge fan of his work. Instead, Gruden signed old pal Chris Thompson to lead the charge and add some pass-catching ability to the backfield. Ryquell Armstead, a 2019 fifth-rounder who averaged just 3.1 yards per carry as a rookie, also figures to have a sizable role at RB.

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Leonard Fournette Clears Waivers, Files Grievance Against Jaguars

No team submitted a waiver claim for Leonard Fournette. The former No. 4 overall pick is now a free agent, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

While the two-time 1,000-yard rusher profiles as one of the top players available, he has set his sights on the Jaguars for a payment. Fournette has filed a grievance against the Jags for the $4.167MM base salary that would have been due to him this season, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This grievance stems from the one-game suspension Fournette incurred in 2018 for fighting with then-Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson. In December 2018, the Jaguars voided the remaining guarantees in Fournette’s contract. Fournette challenged this, and the void decision is now relevant since money remains on the table from the running back’s previously fully guaranteed rookie deal.

But the team that signs Fournette is no longer bound by the terms of his rookie deal. Fournette will be an interesting addition to a team’s backfield, in what will be an attempt for the formerly coveted prospect to revive his career.

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Jaguars Release Leonard Fournette

The Jaguars are releasing running back Leonard Fournette, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has also officially confirmed the move, which will place the former No. 4 overall pick on the waiver wire. 

At the end of the day, I’ve got to be able to field a team that gives us the best chance to win,” Marrone said (Twitter link via John Oehser of the team website).

Fournette is scheduled to earn $4.1MM in fully guaranteed base salary this season. His contract contains no offset language, so the Jaguars will be off the hook if another club claims him. The Jags declined Fournette’s pick’s fifth-year option, so he has just one year to go on his deal.

Although Fournette totaled a career-high 1,674 yards from scrimmage last season, opinions are split on Fournette’s effectiveness. This year, the Jaguars hired a new OC in Jay Gruden, and they decided to take the running game in a different direction. Jacksonville signed former Gruden passing-down back Chris Thompson, who is now set to take on an even larger role. He’s backstopped by Ryquell Armstead, a 2019 fifth-rounder who averaged just 3.1 yards per carry as a rookie.

The Jaguars tried to get something in exchange for Fournette, but they didn’t find much trade interest. The former LSU running back enjoyed an up-and-down tenure in Jacksonville. He posted two 1,000-yard seasons but also missed eight games in 2018 — a year in which he averaged just 54.9 yards per game — due to injury and suspension.

Fournette was the first running back chosen in 2017. The Jags used their top pick in that draft on him, passing on both Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes despite Blake Bortles‘ struggles.

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