The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one more week removed from their thrilling victory in Super Bowl LV and one week closer to fully turning the page to the 2021 season. That will officially happen at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 17 when the new league year begins and brings with it free agency.
The Buccaneers have 24 players from their 2020 roster who could become unrestricted free agents on that day, although the team will certainly be trying to shorten that list over the next several weeks. Head Coach Bruce Arians has said he thinks the Buccaneers have a good shot at keeping the core of the team intact for another championship run.
Until that happens and in the weeks leading up to the start of the new league year, we are going to look at the following 10 players who are currently poised to become unrestricted free agents on March 17:
February 16: ILB Lavonte David
February 19: WR Chris Godwin
February 23: RB Leonard Fournette
February 26: K Ryan Succop
March 2: DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches
March 5: QB Blaine Gabbert
March 9: WR Antonio Brown
March 12: TE Rob Gronkowski
March 15: OLB Shaquil Barrett
March 16: DL Ndamukong Suh
This list is subject to change based on potential roster moves in the coming weeks. However, today we are turning our attention to a player who became one of the team's most productive offensive weapons in the postseason.
Player: Leonard Fournette
Position: Running Back
Experience: Entering fifth NFL season
How Acquired: Signed as a free agent on September 8, 2020, a week after being waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Previous Contract(s): Fournette played the 2020 season on the one-year deal he signed with the Buccaneers in September. Previously, as the fourth-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he signed the standard four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year that all first-round picks receive. The Jaguars did not execute that fifth-year option.
Rank in Pro Football Focus Top 200 NFL Free Agents for 2021: Not ranked. The list was initially posted prior to the playoffs. The highest-ranked running back is Green Bay's Aaron Jones at 45. The list was recently expanded from 150 to 200 free agents, including recent additions to the mix like J.J. Watt, but Fournette is still not included.
2020 Performance: Fournette was the Buccaneers' second-leading rusher during the regular season but much more than that in the postseason. In the regular season, he was second on the team behind Ronald Jones in carries (97), rushing yards (367) and rushing touchdowns (six). He was the team's most productive pass-catching running back, with 36 receptions for 233 yards.
Fournette had his only 100-yard rushing game of the season in Week Two when a 46-yard touchdown rumble helped him put up 103 yards and two scores on just 12 carries. He missed some time after that with an ankle injury, came back with a pair of 50-yard games and then saw his carries drop over the next month, culminating in his "healthy scratch" for the Week 14 game against Minnesota after the bye week.
However, Jones then landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and Fournette took advantage, starting the next seven games, including the postseason, and producing 606 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in that span. He was particularly impressive in the playoffs, with more than 100 yards from scrimmage in three of the four games and a touchdown in each one. By the end of the Bucs' postseason run his nicknamed had morphed from "Playoff Lenny" to "Lombardi Lenny."
Fournette's 448 yards from scrimmage during the 2020 playoffs was the most any Buccaneer had ever posted in a single postseason, and it also put him behind only Mike Alstott (502) in career yards from scrimmage in the playoffs in team history. He joined Terrell Davis and Larry Fitzgerald – one current and one future Hall of Famer – as the only players in league history to score a touchdown in four different games in a single postseason. His 448 yards from scrimmage are the ninth most any player has ever posted in a single postseason.
Career Accomplishments: Through his first four NFL seasons, Fournette has amassed 2,998 rushing yards, 170 receptions, 4,240 yards from scrimmage and 25 total touchdowns in regular-season play. He has been to the postseason twice and in seven games has produced 542 rushing yards, 734 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. He has a career average of 3.9 yards per carry and 61.2 rushing yards per game.
Fournette began his career with a 1,040-yard rushing season as a rookie in 2017, scoring a career-best 10 touchdowns that year. Injuries limited him to eight games in 2018 but he returned with a career-high 1,152 rushing yards in 2019. He also caught 76 passes for the Jaguars that year, resulting in a total of 1,674 yards from scrimmage that ranked sixth in the NFL.
Other Potential Free Agent Running Backs: Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams (Green Bay), Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde (Seattle), Kenyan Drake (Arizona), James Conner (Pittsburgh), Mike Davis (Carolina), James White and Rex Burkhead (New England), Le'Veon Bell (Kanas City), Marlon Mack (Indianapolis), Todd Gurley (Atlanta), Tevin Coleman (San Francisco)
Top Running Back Prospects in 2021 NFL Draft: Travis Etienne (Clemson), Najee Harris (Alabama), Javonte Williams and Michael Carter (North Carolina), Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis), Rhamondre Stevenson (Oklahoma), Kylin Hill (Mississippi State)