Leonard Fournette Reveals Thoughts on Bucs Decision

For running back Leonard Fournette, news of his pending release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came as no surprise.

“I asked after the season to be [released] and they respected my wishes,” Fournette told the Tampa Bay Times according to reporter Rick Stroud. “So no bad blood.”

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero broke the news on Tuesday, February 28, regarding the Bucs’ plan to release Fournette before the new league year starts on March 15. Pelissero noted that Fournette “has $2 million fully guaranteed on his contract and another $2 million would’ve become fully guaranteed on March 19”, but the Bucs can “spread the cap hit” instead.

Fournette has $2 million fully guaranteed left on his contract and another $2M would’ve become fully guaranteed on March 19. Instead, he’ll be a free agent after the league year begins, allowing TB to spread the cap hit. https://t.co/qmkbJ1x9cV

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 28, 2023

Fournette, 28, will go down as one of the biggest postseason playmakers in Bucs history. He tallied 448 total yards and scored four touchdowns to aid the Bucs Super Bowl-winning postseason run in 2020.

His success continued in the 2021 season, including the playoffs where he scored two touchdowns in one playoff game. However, his 2022 season didn’t bring similar results in the playoffs with just 15 total yards against the Dallas Cowboys.

Fournette became a potential salary cap casualty instead as the team entered the offseason in the red with $56 million over the cap.  Tampa Bay previously signed Fournette to a three-year deal worth $21 million, and he would cause an overall cap hit of $8.47 million had he stayed. The Bucs will save $3.5 million with Fournette’s release.

Bucs GM Sees Future for Fournette in NFL

Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who talked with reporters at the NFL Combine earlier that day, didn’t directly tip his cap about Fournette. Licht talked about Bucs running backs Rachaad White and Ke’Shawn Vaughn initially, but Licht emphasized he sees a future for Fournette.

“I think Leonard Fournette still has several years left in him as a three-down back,” Licht told reporters.

Fournette only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in a rushing attack that finished last in the league for 2022. The former LSU star isn’t far removed from his best regular season performances though. He averaged a career-high 4.5 yards per carry in 2021 when he led the team in rushing with 812 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries.

His role as a pass-catcher also grew while in Tampa. He increased his receptions, yards, and touchdowns each season in the passing game with the Bucs.

Fournette also remained a sure-handed ball carrier with only one fumble in his time as a Buc. He only had three before that with his original team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fournette’s Journey Takes Familiar Turn

The Jaguars selected Fournette with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he burst on the scene with 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He helped the Jaguars reach the AFC Championship Game that year, but his career went downhill after that due in part to injury.

Jacksonville released Fournette in 2020, and the Bucs signed him before Week 1. Recently retired Bucs quarterback Tom Brady played a role in recruiting Fournette to Tampa Bay.

Fournette can test free agency next month amid a field of notable available running backs. Other free agents include Saquon Barkley, Kareen Hunt, Rachaad Penny, Jamaal Williams, Josh Jacobs, and Mark Ingram.

This content was originally published here.

Share this story