‘Blockbuster’ Trade Proposal Sends Buccaneers 3-Time Pro Bowler

Leonard Fournette

Getty The Buccaneers could consider a trade for Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a dark horse landing spot for an NFC rival’s star.

As part of a trade scenario proposed by Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine, the Buccaneers would acquire Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in exchange for a 2023 third-round draft pick (No. 83 overall) from Tampa Bay. Ballentine argues that the trade makes sense due to Tampa Bay’s inefficient running attack from the 2022 season.

“Todd Bowles relied heavily on the run game last season, but Leonard Fournette was incredibly inefficient by the season’s end. He averaged 2.2 yards on 11 carries in the team’s playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys,” said Ballentine. “With Tom Brady’s retirement, Bowles could be looking for a back who can have success against stacked boxes like Elliott.”

Bucs Ranked Last in Major Rushing Categories in 2022

The Buccaneers ranked dead last in the league across the board in all four major rushing categories — attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and yards per carry — which was a large reason why Tom Brady broke the single-season record for pass attempts and completions at the age of 45.

Leonard Fournette — who averaged an efficient 4.5 yards per carry in 2021 — saw his yards per carry dip to 3.5 yards per attempt. For perspective, Fournette’s yards per carry was the lowest among the top 46 rushers in the league.

Elliott didn’t exactly impress last season with his yards per carry average (3.9), but as Ballentine mentions, he is accustomed to running against stacked boxes due to the Cowboys’ reliance on the running game.

As Ballentine mentions, Elliott faced the sixth-highest rate against stacked boxes in 2022.

“At this point, the 27-year-old isn’t quite the same dynamic back he was at the beginning of his career, but he did face the sixth-highest rate of stacked boxes, per Player Profiler, and still managed to be 24th in the league in runs of 15 yards or more,” says Ballentine. “Essentially, he’s still capable of carrying the load in the run game even when defenses are loading up the box.”

Ezekiel Elliott’s Salary Cap Hit is a Problem for Buccaneers

While Elliott may be better running against stacked defensive fronts, the trade presents several issues. For one, Elliott’s salary cap hit is $16.7 million for the 2023 season, the second-highest mark of any running back. By comparison, Fournette’s cap hit is just slightly under $8.5 million — and he’s a candidate to be cut.

That’s a big difference in cap hit for a team that’s over the cap by a big margin entering the offseason. According to OverTheCap, the Buccaneers are $55 million over the cap, the second-worst mark in the league.

Trading for an even bigger salary cap liability in Elliott goes against common sense considering Tampa Bay’s salary cap situation.

Secondly, Fournette is a valuable piece as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught 73 passes this season, ranking third in the league among all running backs.

Even if the Buccaneers choose to reload rather than rebuild, it makes little sense for the team to unload a third-round draft pick for an older running back who has already seen his best days. It also makes little sense considering Tampa Bay already features Rachaad White in the backfield, who showed promise during his rookie campaign.

The Buccaneers may very well move on from Fournette, but it simply makes little sense for them to make a trade for Elliott.

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