With all the world focused upon the slew of quarterback headlines happening around the NFL at the start of 2022 free agency, the dominoes are now beginning to fall at the running back position as well. It began with James Conner re-signing with the Arizona Cardinals on a three-year deal and was nudged forward on Saturday, two days before Matt Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts by the Atlanta Falcons, when the latter agreed to terms with Cordarrelle Patterson on a two-year contract. And now, having gotten a good idea of the market, Leonard Fournette has made his decision.
The former fourth overall pick has agreed to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora, on a three-year deal worth up to $21 million. The decision will reunite him with seven-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady, who undoubtedly helped in the recruiting process for Fournette after pulling an about-face to announce his return to football after a very brief stretch of offseason retirement.
With the signing of Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin to a three-year, $60 million deal, this effectively keeps the offensive band together in Tampa — contingent upon the final decision of future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski. After signing a one-year deal with the Buccaneers in 2020 and then another in 2021, his new contract rewards him for accepting Arians’ tough love and using it to get back to prime form, and secures him through the 2024 season.
Playoff Lenny was in full effect during the Super Bowl run by the Buccaneers during the 2020 season, and his 812 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns truly re-polished his regular-season brand. After nearly saving the day in this year’s playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, Fournette showed he’s still got RB1 ability in spades. The veteran running back spent the last few weeks weighing his options, which likely included waiting to see if Brady was serious about retirement, and that included a reported visit with Brady’s former team, the New England Patriots.
In the end, however, he opted to stay put and work toward helping Brady and head coach Bruce Arians attempt to wash the bitter taste of this past season’s playoff exit from their mouths. It’s all a long way from his days of struggling with the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the Buccaneers now having yet another shot at hoisting a Lombardi Trophy, assuming they can pick up where they left off in 2021 (this time with a healthy Godwin, to boot).