The Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to run it back in 2021, and they mean that most literally with running back Leonard Fournette.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers re-signed Fournette, who originally joined the team just before the start of the 2020 season. The fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Fournette spent his first three NFL seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before being waived last September. The Buccaneers convinced him to join Tom Brady and a loaded offense just a few days later.
Fournette shared the Buccaneers backfield with Ronald Jones and rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn, then emerged as a dominant force in the postseason, earning the nickname 'Playoff Lenny.' His 448 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in four playoffs contests were both the most in a single postseason in franchise history.
Those touchdowns included a 27-yard sprint in the Bucs' 31-9 win over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, as Fournette saw his nickname morph from "Playoff Lenny" to "Lombardi Lenny." His return is the latest in a long string of moves aimed at keeping that Super Bowl roster together for a spirited title defense in 2021. Prior to the re-signing of Fournette, the Buccaneers struck new deals with Chris Godwin (via the franchise tag), Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Succop, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Kevin Minter and Aaron Stinnie. In addition, both Tom Brady and Donovan Smith have inked new contract extensions in recent weeks.
With Ronald Jones serving as the starter and primary ballcarrier for the majority of the regular season, Fournette pitched in with 97 carries for 367 yards and six touchdowns. He was also the team's most productive receiver out of the backfield, with 36 receptions for 233 yards. An ankle injury essentially cost Fournette three games in the first half of the season (he was active for one of them but did not have a carry), and his playing time went up and down for much of the fall. However, when Jones landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for two games in December Fournette stepped in as the starter and contributed 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Jones also missed the Wild Card game in Washington to start the playoffs with a quad injury and Fournette seized the opportunity again, racking up 132 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the Bucs' 31-23 win. Fournette held onto the job the rest of the way, leading the team in yards from scrimmage and scoring a touchdown in all four postseason games. His touchdown in Super Bowl LV gave the Buccaneers a 19-point third-quarter lead in an eventual 31-9 decision.
Fournette joined Terrell Davis and Larry Fitzgerald 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.
Overall, Fournette has played in 49 regular season games with 39 starts and racked up 2,998 rushing yards, 170 receptions, 4,240 yards from scrimmage and 25 total touchdowns. 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.