Fournette hasn’t stopped testing the free agent waters either. He went to New England on Monday, March 21, to visit the Patriots according to a source via ESPN’s Field Yates. Fournette’s visit comes a week after he deleted his social media post, which JoeBucsFan.com reported on March 14. The Bucs free agent running back also added another post about his future on March 18 via Twitter.
“I know what I want [and] it’s going to take time, but I also believe for these last two years, I’ve played like a top five back, so I’m trusting God and enjoying this time grinding and with family,” Fournette tweeted.
Fournette ran for 812 yards and eight touchdowns for the Bucs in 2021. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns.
His role increased last season after splitting carries with Ronald Jones II in 2020. Despite the split role, Fournette’s production took off in the 2020 playoffs with a historically good performance of 448 total offensive yards and four touchdowns.
Fournette could command $8 million annually in free agency according to Over the Cap. He made $3.25 million with the Bucs last season per OTC.
The biggest free running back agent contract league-wide thus far went to James Conner for $21 million over three years with the Arizona Cardinals. Fournette ranked ahead of Conner in Pro Football Focus’ free agent running back rankings.
How much the Patriots would or could pay Fournette remains the question as Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith noted. The Patriots have depth at running back with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, who both averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season. The Patriots anticipate having James White back healthy, and recent free agent wide receiver signee Ty Montgomery does well on running plays.
New England wanted Fournette in 2020 after the Jacksonville Jaguars released him according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe. The Bucs signed Fournette instead right before Brady’s first season with the team.
Bucs GM Wants Fournette Back
Bucs general manager Jason Licht hopes to keep Fournette in Tampa Bay instead of the running back leaving for Brady’s old team.
“We’ll continue talks with a lot of our players and we’ll do the best we can,” Licht told the media on Monday via ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “We’d love to have Leonard back.”
The Bucs also face a host of other free agency priorities with 21 remaining unsigned players per Over the Cap.
Bucs Backfield Overhaul?
Tampa Bay could face an overhaul at the running back position depending on free agency. The Bucs entered free agency last week with Fournette, Jones, Giovanni Bernard, and Le’Veon Bell as free agents.
Jones may not command more than $1.76 million based on Over the Cap’s estimate. His role with the Bucs diminished in 2021 though with 428 yards rushing and four touchdowns after garnering 978 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. He also hinted at having a chip on his shoulder in free agency after not making Pro Football Focus’ top 200 list.
Only Ke’Shawn Vaughn remains among Bucs running backs set in stone for 2022 with the team. A second-year back, Vaughn showed promising signs late in the season with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in the final three games.