Jacquizz Rodgers signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with little fanfare early last September, then proved to be an invaluable addition to a depleted backfield. Now Rodgers has signed with the Buccaneers again, and this time it's bigger news.
Photos from Jacquizz Rodgers' 2016 campaign.
The seventh-year running back agreed to a new multi-year deal to stay with the Buccaneers on Thursday, shortly after the start of the new league year and the beginning of free agency. Rodgers technically became an unrestricted free agent before staying put because, unlike the Buccaneers' other pending free agents, he couldn't negotiate with the team until Tuesday and couldn't re-sign until Thursday after 4:00 p.m. ET. In essence, the Buccaneers had to treat Rodgers like a pending free agent on another team because he signed a "minimum salary benefit" contract in September.
Rodgers was a lifesaver in the Buccaneers' offense last fall after injuries knocked running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims out for extended periods of time. The former Falcon and Bear actually led the team with 560 rushing yards, which doubled as his own single-season NFL career high. Rodgers had never before rushed for more than 362 yards in a season, mostly because he had always been cast as a reserve, change-of-pace back. In 2016, he proved he could handle feature-back duties, particularly during a three-game stretch in which he ran 75 times for 324 yards while both Martin and Sims were out.
That stretch started in Week Five in Carolina, when Rodgers recorded his first career 100-yard game in his very first start as a Buccaneer. He followed that two weeks later, after the team's bye week, with a 154-yard outing at San Francisco in which he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. In all, Rodgers picked up 4.3 yards per tote in 2016, setting another career high.
Rodgers' now-proven ability to shoulder a bigger load in the rushing attack is significant to the Buccaneers, who will be sorting out their backfield in the months to come. Martin finished the season on an NFL suspension that will keep him out for the first three games of 2017. Sims, who turned in a phenomenal 2015 season with 1,090 yards from scrimmage, has missed 17 games due to injuries in his other two NFL campaigns.
Overall, Rodgers has played in 78 NFL games and made 10 starts for Atlanta, Chicago and Tampa Bay. He originally entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick by the Falcons out of Oregon State in 2011. His four seasons in Atlanta included three (2012-14) in which he played in an attack designed by Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter, who is now the Buccaneers' head coach. Rodgers averaged 609 yards from scrimmage per season during that span and showed that he was a talented pass-catcher with a total of 134 receptions.
Rodgers' career NFL totals include 1,717 rushing yards, 1,212 receiving yards and a total of 12 touchdowns. After his time in Atlanta, he signed with the Bears as an unrestricted free agent in 2015 but did appeared in only five games that season. He was released at the end of the 2016 preseason, which gave the Buccaneers an opportunity to reunite him with Koetter. That's clearly a combination the team wanted to keep intact in 2017.