The Tampa Bay Buccaneers already lost Tom Brady to retirement, but now they have lost another key player who happens to be their top running back. According to Tom Pelissero, the Bucs will release Leonard Fournette on March 15 when the NFL season begins. The former Super Bowl champion running back will hit the free agent market and will likely command the attention of a few teams.
Tampa is saving $3.5 million by releasing Fournette. He is also expected to command around $6.5 million for 2023. So where will Tampa’s former RB land? Is Fournette worthy of bell cow status elsewhere in the NFL? Let’s discuss this.
Los Angeles Chargers
While Fournette likely wants to be given a top-back role on his new team, he might have to settle for a complementary role. Being the number one guy will not be the scenario he is in for his entire career. However, sacrificing the lead role for the RB2 spot with plenty of carries could benefit him.
The Chargers already have one of the dual-threat backs in the NFL in Austin Ekeler. However, the Chargers running back room is missing a bruiser who can convert third downs and get touchdowns on the goal line. Fournette would also thrive having Justin Herbert as his quarterback. Fournette might not be the elite pass catcher that Ekeler is, but in 2022, Fournette finished with career highs in receiving yards with 523 and touchdowns with three.
The way I see it, Fournette can rack up touchdowns and bruiser yards while Ekeler sticks to the passing game and homerun plays that make him the star he is. Having this duo would benefit the Charger’s offense immensely. If the Chargers want to compete for years to come, signing Fournette could be the big free-agent splash they need.
The Buffalo Bills will be contenders for a while but still have not gotten to the Super Bowl under Josh Allen. Getting some complementary pieces around Allen should always be a goal. While Devin Singletary showed brief sparks of being a reliable running back, he is not the sole reason this team succeeds. Singletary needs another solid back next to him that can provide products in areas he might lack.
Fournette fits this situation perfectly because Buffalo could eventually give him a role as a three-down running back. Singletary might be a better receiving back, but as I mentioned earlier, Fournette has shown he can fit that role too. Buffalo provides a situation where Fournette could become RB1 if he produces.
Buffalo has the star power already and the ability to contend in the AFC. However, adding a real bell cow in free agency could propel them to the next level. The AFC gauntlet is not waiting for teams to rebuild, but Buffalo could make a legit move by acquiring Fournette.
Another team that could benefit from the presence of Leonard Fournette. Miami has made it a staple of their offense by having several veteran backs at their disposal. Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, and Chase Edmonds led the way for Miami all year. However, Edmonds was traded to Denver in the Bradley Chubb deal, and now Moster and Wilson are free agents. So what now?
The Dolphins would have to clear some significant cap space and restructure contracts, but they could make it work. Fournette would enter a situation where he competes with no one for the job. Fournette brings a more durable run game than Mostert and Wilson, which helps Fournette’s case.
Miami cannot retain Mostert and Wilson and still go after Fournette. So the cheaper option here is to lose Wilson and Mostert, sign Fournette, and draft a back in the middle rounds of the draft. Miami has shown its big-play ability, and Fournette could bring a fresh spark to this offense.
Final Thoughts On Fournette As An RB1
Leonard Fournette will come at a price, but it is worth it. He brings a healthy combination of speed and power, benefiting most teams lacking a top back. The best situation for Fournette is a team willing to give him a healthy shot at the spot.
The Bills and Dolphins are the better suitors, but LA could give him a fresh start to benefit his entire career. Only time will tell where Fournette goes, but it likely won’t happen soon. Once Fournette is released on the 15th, the race for who benefits his career will be on.