Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers Agree to 1-Year Contract Worth Up to $4M

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 26, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Leonard Fournette (28) evades a tackle by Green Bay Packers' Adrian Amos to score on a 20-yard touchdown run during the first half of the NFC championship NFL football game in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Free-agent running back Leonard Fournette has agreed to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year contract.

On Friday, Fournette told reporter Josina Anderson he was re-signing with the Bucs. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport added that the veteran running back can earn up to $4 million in 2021.

The 26-year-old had 600 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns for the Bucs last year, splitting time with Ronald Jones II in the backfield. He had 97 carries for 367 rushing yards and six scores in addition to 36 receptions for 233 receiving yards.

The former Jacksonville Jaguar, who signed with Tampa Bay after his old team released him following three seasons in Duval County, took hold of the Bucs' backfield Dec. 20 in a start against the Atlanta Falcons. He was the team's No. 1 running back for the remainder of the season, starting each game from Week 15 through the Super Bowl.

Fournette shone in the postseason, amassing 82 touches for 448 total yards and four scores. He scored a touchdown in each of the Bucs' playoff games and had a team-high 135 scrimmage yards in the 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl LV.

The Jags selected Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. As a rookie, he had 1,342 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns during a regular season that saw the Jags go 10-6 and make the playoffs.

That postseason run featured 109 rushing yards and three touchdowns from the New Orleans native in a 45-42 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round. The Jags led 20-10 in the fourth quarter of an AFC Championship Game matchup with the New England Patriots but lost 24-20.

That Jags team had a dominant defense and exciting talents on offense, but a repeat performance wasn't meant to be. Jacksonville collapsed to 6-10 in 2018, and Fournette missed seven games because of a hamstring injury and another because of a suspension as a result of a fight with then-Buffalo Bills edge-rusher Shaq Lawson.

Fournette played 15 games in 2019 and notched a career-high 1,674 scrimmage yards. However, the Jags struggled once again, going 5-11.

With the remnants of that 2017 team close to being gone after the 2019 campaign, the Jags decided to go in a different direction, cutting Fournette after failing to find a suitable trade partner. The team is amid a full rebuild and went 1-15 in 2020, earning itself the 2021 draft's No. 1 overall pick.

Fournette has never been a particularly efficient back, rushing for just 3.9 yards per carry during his career. He caught a career-high 76 passes in 2019, but he doesn't do much damage through the air, turning those receptions into just 522 yards.

Still, the 6'0", 228-pound back has proved to be a great pickup for the Bucs.

Breaking the bank for a running back in a pass-happy NFL may not be the wisest choice barring that player being a generational talent, and Fournette is not that. However, he did a good job for Tampa down the stretch, and he could carry over that performance into 2021.