Well, it didn’t take long for Leonard Fournette to find a new home. The former Jaguar running back will take a 3-hour drive down I-75 and take handoffs from the six-time winning Super Bowl quarterback starting in practice today.
Fournette signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday night worth $2 million with incentives that could take it up to $3.5 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, was waived on Monday after the Jaguars didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. Fournette has rushed for over 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons as a pro.
For Tampa Bay, this means a crowded backfield just got more crowded. After drafting Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round and signing Lesean McCoy in free agency, the Bucs now have five running backs fighting for three or four spots when you throw in Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale. There’s a good chance McCoy will be the man left out as Bruce Arians likes to use Ogunbowale on third downs because of his blocking skills. The Bucs have expressed a desire to hold on to McCoy and use him as a receiving back, but the room just may not be there for him in the end.
The signing could also signal a displeasure of Jones and Vaughn’s progress. Jones, who was supposed to be the starting running back in Tampa Bay, now has to share a backfield with Fournette and likely Vaughn who will push him for reps. While reports have indicated that Jones has shined at times during training camp, there have also been times where Arians has gotten on him for his fumbling.
At just 25 years old, it’s hard to imagine Fournette signing with the Bucs to be a backup. Rumors have it Tom Brady pushed for the signing of the former Jags back whose power running and pass-catching skills could be a great compliment to Jones’ more shifty style. Brady is used to operating with a lot of different backs in New England so it makes sense why he would want an assortment of backs for his offense.
Overall, if you’re a Bucs fan, it’s a win-win. The Bucs add more running back depth by adding a 1,000-yard rusher without having to pay him a big long-term deal. His power running game mixed with Jones and Vaughn’s speed and elusiveness only makes the Bucs better out of the backfield. What once was a weakness going into 2020 is quickly looking like it could be a strength.
Now if you’re a fantasy owner of any Bucs running back, it’s a loss. Fournette isn’t likely to dominate the backfield like he did in Jacksonville and it will cut into Jones and Vaughn’s touches. As for McCoy, it’s a wait-and-see if he makes the squad approach but I wouldn’t be spending a draft pick on him. If he makes the team, you can get him off your waiver wire in deep leagues.
As we speculated a couple months back, there will be a season within a season going on this year with the Bucs and Patriots. First, Brady left the Pats to join Tampa. Then Gronk followed suit. Just yesterday afternoon, Fournette was rumored to be getting interest from New England only to head south and join Brady and Gronk.
The Bucs are 10 days away from their opening game in the Superdome, a game that just got a whole lot more interesting with Fournette jumping on board. Ratings for that game next week are surely to go through the roof.
As for who will wear No. 27, well, I guess that’s another battle that Jones and Fournette will have to sort out.