It will take a strong offer by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to keep free agent running back Leonard Fournette if he can get offered his market value elsewhere.
That’s because a suitor such as the Miami Dolphins could easily offer Fournette his $6.2 million market value according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox. The Dolphins have an NFL-best $62 million in projected cap space, and the team needs to revive dormant running game, Knox noted.
Fournette, who rushed for 812 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021, could provide an instant boost for the Dolphins. Miami mustered 92.2 yards per game and finished 31st in yards per attempt, Knox noted.
If Fournette leaves the Bucs in free agency, it will create a big void in the backfield. He became an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield in addition to rushing in 2021. He finished fourth on the team in receptions with 69, and he amassed 454 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game.
The Bucs also have running backs Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard up for free agency. Jones played less in 2021 than 2020 as he ran for 428 yards and four touchdowns. Bernard had 23 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran sparingly with just 58 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Bucs Named a Landing Spot for RB Chase Edmonds
If the Bucs lose running back depth in free agency, Knox proposes the Bucs could go for Arizona’s Chase Edmonds. The fourth-year running back has a career average of 4.7 yards per carry and 7.2 yards per reception.
Edmonds played under Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who served as an assistant in Arizona in 2018, Knox noted. Edmonds had 20 catches, 311 total offensive yards, and two touchdowns as a rookie that year.
He never became a feature back in Arizona but could fit into Leftwich’s system of multiple running backs in Tampa Bay, Knox wrote. Before Fournette grabbed the lead running back role in 2021, the plan had been for Fournette and Jones to split the rushing load.
Edmond’s market value of $5.3 million will be the main challenge, Knox noted, for the Bucs cap-strapped space of $3 million according to Over the Cap.
Jones Has Beef Over Free Agency List
Jones came just shy of a 1,000-yard season in 2020 with 978 yards and seven touchdowns on 192 carries.
His fall to the No. 2 running back spot behind Fournette ultimately impacted free agency rankings, and it didn’t sit well with Jones. He sounded off about being left off of Pro Football Focus’ top 200 free agents for 2022.
“Don’t disrespect me like that,” Jones tweeted.
The Bucs drafted Jones out of USC in the second round of the 2018 draft. His production increased each year before his 2021 drop-off.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s Emergence Could Impact Bucs Moves
Late in the 2021 season, the Bucs had Jones, Bernard, and Fournette out injured at different times. Second-year running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn filled in for them in critical wins down the stretch. It could impact how the Bucs prioritize its three free agent running backs.
“He has great running skills, excellent jump-cut ability and he’s worked on his hands. His hands are better,” Arians said of Vaughn in a Dec. 27 press conference. “I think he’s a lead dog.”
Vaughn rushed for 70 yards and a seven carries in a 32-6 blowout win over Carolina on Dec. 26. He tallied 29 yards and a touchdown in a rematch with Carolina on Jan. 9, and he rushed for 53 yards and touchdown against Philadelphia on Jan. 16 in the Wild Card round.
The Bucs have Vaughn on his rookie deal for another two seasons.