Fournette off to join Brady & Co. in Tampa Bay

  • Covered the Buccaneers since 2009
  • Joined ESPN in 2016

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to go “all-in” on the 2020 season, and it’s making for a crowded backfield and an abundance of help for quarterback Tom Brady.

Nearly one month after signing six-time Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, the Bucs reached an agreement Wednesday night with Leonard Fournette, he confirmed on social media.

The agreement is for one year and could be worth up to $3.5 million with incentives, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Fournette was waived Monday by the Jacksonville Jaguars after three seasons. The Jaguars had declined to pick up his fifth-year option in May and unsuccessfully tried to trade him. Fournette had his best season statistically in 2019, rushing for a career-best 1,152 yards and catching 76 passes for 522 receiving yards with three total touchdowns.

Fournette’s arrival most certainly signifies that cuts will be made in the Bucs’ running backs room, but it’s unclear who will go. Ronald Jones was named the starter at the beginning of camp. McCoy has absorbed the playbook and performed well in the scrimmage last week, getting work on all three downs. Dare Ogunbowale has reliable hands and was the third-down back and captain on special teams last season.

And in this year’s draft, the team selected Ke’Shawn Vaughn with a third-round pick and Raymond Calais in the seventh round. With both getting slow starts to their NFL careers because of no offseason and beginning camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list, it’s possible they could be placed on the practice squad, provided they clear waivers after final cuts.

McCoy is the only one of that group to have rushed for 1,000 yards in an NFL season. The Bucs trust McCoy’s hands, while Jones has worked diligently to improve his — a must with Brady at quarterback.

Between Fournette and McCoy, the Bucs now have two running backs who have combined for eight 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Tampa Bay has had a total of 12 1,000-yard rushing seasons in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Bucs averaged 3.7 yards per rush over the past three seasons — the worst mark in the NFL. While they were known for pushing the ball downfield with Jameis Winston, the offense has taken a more balanced approach since Brady signed during the offseason.

Fournette, 25, at times had a rocky tenure in Jacksonville.

On Monday, after the Jags waived the running back, coach Doug Marrone said that despite Fournette’s productivity, he thought the move was “the best decision for us as a team.” He added that it was strictly an on-field decision to waive him.

Fournette’s tenure in Jacksonville took a turn in 2018, which ended up being the worst season of the former LSU star’s football life. There were injuries and a suspension, and he was on the bench in crunch time. He was fined, criticized and admittedly not in ideal shape late in the year.

In April 2019, Fournette was charged with driving with a suspended license.

Information from ESPN’s Michael DiRocco was used in this report.

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