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Buccaneers options at running back are drying up

With James White now returning to the New England Patriots, what does this mean for the Buccaneers?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
New England Patriots running back James White (28) rushes against Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones (24) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Wednesday that James White would be returning to the New England Patriots after there being some kind of an impression of hope that White would end up in a Buccaneers uniform.

Bucs Nation’s own Jason Curtis recently laid out the potential for James White to come down to Florida in his recent free-agent spotlight where he said that it could be “a match made in heaven.”

And what a match it could’ve been.

The Bucs need for a true pass-catching running-back combined with White’s history of playing alongside Tom Brady made this seem like a no-brainer. However, the news left some feeling shocked.

While it may have felt like a “slam-dunk” as Sam Monson of PFF states, nothing in NFL free-agency really ever is. However, now that White is officially out of the running, what does this mean for Tampa Bay’s running back situation?

As it stands right now, the Bucs only have two rostered running backs that will actually see time in the offensive backfield, these being Ronald Jones II and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Yet, these two have not proven that they are capable of taking on a true third-down pass-catching role.

Even if they were, the Bucs would be looking for another option to fill the room as two guys aren’t enough to cover that position group. So who can they use to complete their running back room, and will they do so through the draft or in this free agency period?

These are questions that can only be answered with time, but as it stands now, they may be looking to re-sign Leonard Fournette.

Unfortunately, as much as this has been reported, there hasn’t been a lot of progress related to him coming back. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated stated that the Bucs (and more specifically Brady) wanted him back, but since then there’s been little movement towards a new contract.

Even with the news that the Bucs are talking with Fournette’s representatives, these negotiations “seem to moving at a snail’s pace” as Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation puts it.

Since Seattle signed Chris Carson, and the Patriots (another team with expressed interest in Fournette) just re-signed White, it seems more likely that he comes back. However, with each passing day, the panic button is looking better and better especially because these talks are moving very slowly and what was presumed to be a “lock” to end up in Tampa Bay re-signed with New England.

Other guys like Damien Williams, Mike Davis, and Marlon Mack have also already been signed elsewhere, which makes this situation even more anxiety inducing. Of the available free agent running backs remaining (Fournette included), there truly aren’t many that can fill that third down pass-catching role.

So Bucs fans, while it definitely looked like Tampa Bay would come out of free-agency with a receiving back like many predicted, you may have to wait until the draft to see this position filled.

Even if they choose to re-sign Lombardi Lenny, they will most likely address this position in the draft to shore up the future at the position. Without insight into what their plans are, it’s hard to say what the running back room will end up looking like; however, it’s pretty clear that it may look vastly different in the coming weeks.

Get ready for a wild ride.