The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have managed to keep the band together after winning Super Bowl LV. Now they're finally recruiting new members.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers signed ninth-year running back Giovani Bernard, who played his first eight seasons in Cincinnati. Bernard, who ran for 416 yards and caught 47 passes last year, was released by the Bengals last week.
Tampa Bay has been busy in free agency but until now had worked exclusively on whittling down a long list of players who could have departed from the Super Bowl roster. Among the key players from the 2020 team who have re-signed with the Buccaneers are Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Succop and Ndamukong Suh. Quarterback Tom Brady also agreed to a contract extension.
One player from last year's squad who has not re-signed with the Buccaneers is veteran running back LeSean McCoy, creating an opening on the depth chart for Bernard. The former second-round pick out of North Carolina gives the Buccaneers a proven pass-catcher out of the backfield. His 342 receptions and 2,867 receiving yards since entering the league in 2013 both rank third among all NFL running backs in that span.
View pictures from RB Giovani Bernard's NFL career thus far.
The 5-9, 205-pound Bernard has played in 115 games with 30 starts, recording 921 carries for 3,697 yards (4.0 avg.) and 22 touchdowns. His receiving production, which includes 11 touchdowns, gives him career totals of 6,564 yards from scrimmage and 33 scores. Bernard has also only fumbled seven times on 1,263 career touches and never more than twice in any given season.
Bernard mostly split backfield duties with another primary ballcarrier during his tenure in Cincinnati, first with Jeremy Hill and then with Joe Mixon. His first three seasons were his most productive as a runner, as he averaged 164 carries and 702 rushing yards per year from 2013-16. However, his pass-catching output has remained steady throughout his career, with at least 30 receptions every season. His 47 catches last year marked his highest season total since 2015.
Bernard joins a backfield that also includes Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette and Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Jones was the team's primary starter during the regular season and he led the team with 978 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, setting a single-season franchise record with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Fournette led the Bucs' backfield with 36 catches during the regular season and then emerged as a major force in the playoffs with 448 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Vaughn, a third-round pick out of Vanderbilt in last year's draft, saw occasional playing time and had 143 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown.