Fournette “is working out” with the Patriots “per sources” on Wednesday, July 19, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. It appeared relatively unexpected as the Patriots had interest in free agent running back and four-time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook for weeks.
Fournette isn’t Cook, but Fournette enjoyed his share of success with the Bucs and retired quarterback Tom Brady from 2020 to 2022.
Whether or not the Patriots will find “Playoff Lenny” or the back who stumbled to 3.5 yards per carry remains the question. Tampa Bay released Fournette in March after the team finished last in every major rushing category.
A former No. 4 pick with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fournette took off early in his career with two 1,000-yard seasons. He also had solid playoff performances with the Jaguars, which reached the AFC Championship Game once, but things turned south for Fournette after that.
Jacksonville released Fournette in September 2020, but he turned things around in Tampa Bay with Brady. Fournette amassed 448 total yards and four touchdowns in the Bucs’ Super Bowl run that season, which brought about “Playoff Lenny”.
His stellar play with the Bucs continued in the 2021 season as the team’s leading rusher. Fournette looked like “Playoff Lenny” again when he tied the Divisional Round game late in the fourth quarter before a last-second loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Tampa Bay rewarded Fournette with a three-year, $21 million contract after the season. However, he didn’t find the same success in 2022 amid 668 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in addition to losing the starting job to rookie Rachaad White.
Despite the downturn, Fournette’s pass-catching ability remained a threat with 73 catches for 523 yards and three touchdowns. He’s maintained success in that area amid 312 receptions for 2,219 yards and seven touchdowns for his career.
If New England adds Fournette to the backfield, the Patriots add another quality rusher behind 1,000-yard back Rhamondre Stevenson. While Stevenson is also a solid pass-catching threat, Fournette would add another target out of the backfield for quarterback Mac Jones.
New England arguably needs to find more offensive talent after losing out on free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Patriots were also “intrigued” by free agent running back Dalvin Cook, but the four-time Pro Bowler has a high asking price.
Leonard Fournette Was Really a Bright Spot on Offense
Regardless of what the Patriots spend, the team didn’t generate sufficient touchdowns last season amid 21.1 points per game. Even Fournette as less than “Playoff Lenny” could spark the Patriots offense, considering the team’s recent lows.
Fournette scored six touchdowns for an inept Bucs offense that floundered at 18.4 points per game with Brady under center. The Bucs also had a leaky offensive line amid injuries and youth, which impacted Fourentte’s success.
Leonard Fournette a Bigger Bargain in Free Agency Than Dalvin Cook
Signing Fournette will come at a significantly lower price than Cook. Spotrac projects Fournette for a two-year, $4.68 million deal or $2.3 million annually.
New England has $17.74 million in salary cap space, which sparked controversy over the team’s miss of Hopkins. However, the Patriots have additional needs such as tackle and cornerback — especially depending on how the Jack Jones situation plays out.