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Bucs might be better off without Leonard Fournette

The veteran’s lack of production in the regular season is concerning.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) is tackled by Las Vegas Raiders free safety Erik Harris (25) during the first half at Allegiant Stadium.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I realize this is a take that many Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans are probably going to disagree with, but I’m not here to talk about things everyone agrees with.

Leonard Fournette, a.k.a. ‘Lombardi Lenny’, had one of the great post-season runs from any running back and that can’t be taken away from him. However, he really didn’t do much in the regular season that would warrant signing him on for another year.

Listed as a healthy scratch in Week 14, Fournette only averaged 3.8 yards per carry throughout the regular season and had quite a bit of trouble handling pass-catching and pass-protection duties.

While Ronald Jones II also struggled in those two areas, he was one of the better pure runners in the NFL through the 2020 season. So why would you want the ball taken out of his hands in running situations?

Jones has shown us he may not be capable of taking on a bell-cow role, simply based on his inability to catch the ball or do anything with it when he does. Outside of that, he is still a much better and more efficient runner than Fournette is.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When looking at their statistical production during the regular season, Jones is by far the hotter hand to take into the 2021 season. He averaged just over five yards per carry, and even when we take away the 98-yard touchdown run, he averaged almost a full yard over what Fournette did (4.6 yds/carry).

Now let’s look at this from a true efficiency standpoint which can be measured through Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic (defense-adjusted value over average) which essentially indicates the value that a player has over the average player in that position.

For Jones, his DVOA was 15.5% (ranked 10th in the NFL) for the 2020 season, meaning that on any given play he provided 15.5% more value than an average runner in the same situation. Looking at Fournette, his DVOA was listed at 2%.

While any positive percentages may be looked at as an overall benefit based on the potential for a less efficient runner to be present in the same offense, there is still a 13.5% gap between the two primary runners in Tampa Bay.

My whole argument here isn’t that Fournette is bad (which some on the outside may argue) but rather, Jones is simply a better option.

In addition to this, the amount of money that Fournette will most likely garner in free agency based on his post-season run will probably not be worth the overall benefit that he brings to the Bucs, especially because we know that he doesn’t really do anything that Jones II can’t.

During the playoffs, we really saw Fournette run away with the role (no pun intended). However, it should also be noted that RoJo was a little banged up going into the post-season and was held out of the Wild Card round due to injury.

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Going into 2021 with continuity is important, yet the cash-strapped Buccaneers can’t afford to pay well above value just to keep continuity in place. Despite Jason Licht and Mike Greenberg’s clever cape maneuvering, there isn’t any reason to justify paying Fournette any more than he made in 2020 or to push the cap hit down the road.

While the Bucs have a need at the running back position, there are better ways to go about it. The need that they currently have is primarily centered around a pass-catcher and pass-protector, two things that Fournette is not.

We should be expecting the Buccaneers to focus on this position in the draft, or in the coming months through free-agency. If someone else is brought in that can do the things that Jones II can’t do, then that really takes away any value that Fournette would have brought anyway.

Taking the ball out of RoJo’s hands on running downs can only hurt this team, so why sign someone who is going to do just that? From a team which is in win-now (again) mode, they can’t be placing money into the hands of players that will lower their overall efficiency.

But what do you think? Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prioritize Fournette in free-agency or should they let him walk? Let us know in the comments below!


Do the Buccaneers need Leonard Fournette?

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