Free company opens in two weeks, and the Bucs can have their palms full. Clearly Tampa Bay has a lot of free brokers to re-sign, most notably vast receiver Chris Godwin and cornerback Carlton Davis. However one of many names that hasn’t garnered a lot consideration is Leonard Fournette. “Lombardi Lenny” can be a free agent for the second offseason in a row. The chances he returns to the Bucs seem slim, however that is likely to be factor for either side.
Per Professional Soccer Focus, Fournette’s subsequent projected contract is 2 years, $16 million. That might tie him for the ninth-highest paid operating again within the NFL on a per 12 months foundation. Fournette improved in Tampa Bay, particularly as a receiver and cross protector. However he isn’t a difference-making again. And even difference-making backs have struggled to justify their prime 10 paydays.
As a pure runner, Fournette was simply common as a Buccaneer. When the blocking is there, he’s superb. However Fournette isn’t an important deal with breaker, neither is he particularly elusive as a runner. There have been additionally a regarding variety of occasions the place he didn’t hit the correct gap with timing and decisiveness. There’s a motive why the Bucs had been gradual to part Ronald Jones out over the previous two years. Fournette simply isn’t a dynamic rusher.
Now, as a cross protector, Fournette’s enchancment this previous season was outstanding. He’d been a under common cross defending again most of his profession, however in 2021 the LSU product lit it up. Fournette was additionally way more constant as a receiver, even when he isn’t a game-breaking possibility. Dropping that second and third down presence can be robust, however the Bucs have choices to interchange the primary rounder’s influence.
First, Tampa Bay ought to prioritize bringing Giovani Bernard again. He is aware of the offense now, and he’s spent his profession as a terrific third down again. He’s additionally an important locker room presence, which can be essential with younger Ke’Shawn Vaughn the one operating again beneath contract. Bernard signed a $1.2 million contract final offseason. He shouldn’t be way more costly after a quiet 12 months.
Even when the Bucs do re-sign Bernard, they want one other choice to shoulder carries alongside the 30-year outdated and Vaughn. Clearly the draft is one path. This isn’t an important operating again class, however the center rounds will maintain a number of succesful choices like yearly.
However even in free company, high quality, reasonably priced choices abound for the Bucs. James Conner, who’s greatest associates with Jordan Whitehead, is a free agent. Conner has handled accidents up to now, however is coming off a 752-yard, 15-touchdown season. He additionally snagged 37 catches for 375 yards, averaging over 10 yards per catch!
Conner is a top quality rusher and an excellent receiver and protector. He’ll seemingly value lower than Fournette too, because of his historical past of getting banged up. However he received’t want to hold the load in Tampa Bay. That’s an enormous plus. Conner’s teammate in Arizona, Chase Edmonds, is also a terrific third down possibility if the Bucs don’t retain Bernard.
One in every of my favourite low-cost choices for the Bucs is operating again Sony Michel. The previous Patriot and Ram is recent off profitable a hoop, and appears unlikely to return to Los Angeles. Michel is without doubt one of the prime cross defending backs within the NFL, and a strong rusher. He’s additionally operated effectively behind principally each operating scheme there may be, because of his imaginative and prescient and method. However he’s by no means developed into a top quality receiving possibility. Pairing him with Bernard or a rookie receiving again can be key.
The Bucs may additionally purchase a number of different succesful backs for affordable. Melvin Gordon received’t assist the passing recreation, however he’s an excellent, cheap runner. Rashaad Penny lastly broke out as a runner close to the top of his fourth season. Can he be counted on to remain wholesome and proceed rising? Rolling the cube is unlikely to value Tampa Bay very a lot. PFF has Penny’s subsequent contract at one-year, $2 million. Veteran J.D. McKissic might be an inexpensive Bernard alternative, if it involves that.
So long as Bruce Arians is head coach, the Bucs’ passing assault will carry the offense. For Tampa Bay’s system, a bevy of backs may fill Fournette’s footwear as a pure rusher. The almost definitely consequence is a reliance on an inexpensive committee method to deal with the load. Pewter Report can have extra evaluation on draft choices because the offseason progresses. However with free company two weeks away, the Bucs can have a lot of decisions if Fournette departs for one more franchise.