The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have Tom Brady back for 2022 and they're making sure he has all the firepower he needs for a run at a third straight playoff berth, and hopefully more.
The latest key contributor from the Buccaneers 2020-21 offense to return to the fold is running back Leonard Fournette, who re-signed with the team on Wednesday. After his incredible star turn during Tampa Bay's playoff run to the Super Bowl LV championship, Fournette solidified his hold on the starting job in the backfield with a very productive 2021 campaign.
Though a hamstring pull put him on injured reserve for the final three games of the regular season and the first playoff contest, Fournette led the Buccaneers with 812 yards on 180 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per tote. He was also an integral part of Brady's passing attack; at the time of his injury, Fournette was leading all NFL running backs with 69 receptions, which he turned into 454 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, Fournette found the end zone 10 times, ranking second on the team to Mike Evans' 14 scores.
View the top pictures of Leonard Fournette from his first two seasons with the Buccaneers.
After missing the Buccaneers' Wild Card win over Philadelphia in January, Fournette returned to the field for the Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Rams and produced 107 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Outsized postseason production has been a hallmark of Fournette's NFL career – thus the nicknames 'Playoff Lenny' and 'Lombardi Lenny' – most notably after the 2020 season when he became just the third player in league history to score touchdowns in four different games in the same playoffs.
In those four games, including Super Bowl LV, Fournette led the Bucs' offense with 448 yards from scrimmage and averaged 4.7 yards from scrimmage. Overall, including a 2017 playoff run with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fournette has averaged 105.1 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns in eight outings.
The Buccaneers led the NFL in passing yards in 2021 and finished second in both total offense and scoring and should be poised to be similarly productive in 2022. Brady's decision to return after an unofficial 40-day 'retirement' was the key to that continuity but the team has now also retained Fournette, wide receiver Chris Godwin and center Ryan Jensen. Tight end Rob Gronkowski may also return and the Bucs have added another productive receiver in free agency in former Falcon Russell Gage. The offensive line has lost starting guards Ali Marpet (to retirement) and Alex Cappa (to free agency) but was able to retain potential starter Aaron Stinnie and trade for former Patriot guard Shaq Mason.
Fournette originally entered the NFL as the fourth-overall pick in the 2017 draft. He topped 1,000 rushing yards in two of his three seasons in Jacksonville and produced 1,674 yards from scrimmage in 2019 but was released by the Jaguars late in their 2020 training camp. The Buccaneers signed the former LSU star before the start of the regular season and he split time with starter Ronald Jones before taking over in the playoffs due to Jones' late-season injury and COVID issues. Jones is currently an unrestricted free agent. Overall, Fournette has played in 63 regular-season games with 52 starts and has produced 3,810 rushing yards, 239 receptions for 1,696 yards and 35 total touchdowns.