Bucs Sign 3-Time Pro Bowl RB After Troubling Leonard Fournette News

Leonard Fournette Update

Getty The Buccaneers plan to sign star running back Le'Veon Bell.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to terms with three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell pending a passed physical, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The news comes as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Bucs are expected to place star rusher Leonard Fournette on the Injured Reserve list as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

“Sources: The Bucs are signing RB Le’Veon Bell, pending physical,” Pelissero noted on December 21 in a series of tweets. “Assuming Le’Veon Bell passes his physical Wednesday, the Bucs will sign him to the 53-man roster. Now in line to back up Ronald Jones with Leonard Fournette banged up.”

ALL the latest Bucs news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bucs newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Bucs!

Fournette Will Miss the Regular Season But Is Expected Back for Playoffs

Fournette will miss the remainder of the regular season as players who are placed on IR are sidelined for a minimum of three weeks. It marks the second key running back that the Bucs have placed on Injured Reserve in recent weeks as Fournette joins Gio Bernard on the list. The silver lining for Fournette is the playmaker is expected to be ready for the postseason.

“Buccaneers now are ‘likely’ to place RB Leonard Fournette on injured reserve with the hamstring injury that left him on crutches Sunday night, per a league source,” Schefter tweeted. “He then would miss rest of regular season. …Leonard Fournette is expected to be return for the playoffs, per source. Buccaneers placed wide receiver Chris Godwin and defensive lineman Pat O’Connor on the Reserve/Injured list today.”

The Move Reunites Bell & A.B. Who Were Former Steelers Teammates

Le'Veon Bell Antonio Brown

GettyFormer Pittsburgh Steelers teammates Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

The news means that the Bucs are likely to lean on Ronald Jones as the team’s lead back in Fournette’s absence with Ke’Shawn Vaughn expected to get increased snaps as well. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Bucs will sign Bell to the active roster rather than the team’s practice squad.

“Bell is headed to the active roster and not the practice squad, per source,” Fowler explained on Twitter. “Bell’s pass-catching and blitz pickup a good fit with Brady. …Bucs are reuniting Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, who once tore up the league with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.”

Bell Has Now Played for 4 Teams Since 2020

The Bucs mark the fourth team that Bell has joined since 2020 and the running back most recently played five games for the Ravens before being released. Since departing the Steelers in 2019, Bell has also had short stints with the Jets and Chiefs in addition to the Ravens. Bell had 31 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns prior to Baltimore releasing the veteran back.

Bell is a far cry from his 321 carries for 1291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns that he notched in Pittsburgh during his Pro Bowl campaign in 2017. The Buccaneers are hoping Bell can be used to spell Jones and Vaughn on occasion with Fournette sidelined. After Fournette’s injury, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians expressed confidence in Jones’ ability to carry the load.

“It’s his time now to do what happened for Leonard last year when he [Jones] got hurt, and so yeah I’ve got all the confidence in the world,” Arians noted during his December 20 press conference. “He ran great, caught the ball good and I think going forward it’s his job right now.”