Leonard Fournette Landing Spots: Could the Dolphins, Chargers, or Cardinals look to the Buccaneers RB?

What are the potential landing spots for Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette if he reaches free agency in the 2022 NFL offseason?

Heading into the offseason, the potential landing spots of Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette are intriguing to try and figure out. Fournette has become a crucial part of a Buccaneers offense that has every chance to win back-to-back Super Bowls. With Fournette set to be a free agent in the 2022 NFL offseason, let’s look at what his market might be and which teams might be interested.

Leonard Fournette Landing Spots

It has been a tremendous turnaround for Fournette in the past year. The 2020 NFL season saw him released by the Jaguars before the Buccaneers added him. He then had mixed fortunes during the regular season. It started well enough with 12 rush attempts for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 2. However, he was inactive in more games (3) than he went over 50 total yards (2).

It all changed in Week 15 when Fournette had 65 total yards and 2 touchdowns. He followed that up with 66 total yards and a touchdown in Week 16. Then, in the playoffs, Fournette impressed with 300 rushing yards and 148 receiving yards on 64 rush attempts and 21 targets. He also found the end zone 4 times during the four-game stretch, earning the nickname “playoff Lenny.”

He has subsequently followed that up with an impressive performance in 2021. Entering Week 15, Leonard has a total of 1,199 yards with 10 touchdowns. He is averaging a touch under 60 yards per game on the ground and 32.4 receiving yards on average. It has been an impressive season that could yet see him rush for 1,000 yards and set a career-high mark in total yards (1,674).

Fournette took a one-year, prove-it contract with the Buccaneers last offseason. But the expectation is he will be more in demand after a strong 2021 season. It will be interesting to see what kind of contract Fournette will command this offseason. He is expected to be the top free-agent RB in 2022. That could see him looking at a two or three-year contract worth around $10 million per year. Let’s look at which teams might be in the market for the RB.

The Miami Dolphins badly need a feature back

It has been a tough year for the Dolphins’ running game. They rank 31st in the league in terms of yards per attempt, and no back with more than 10 attempts is averaging even 4 yards per attempt. A big part of the problem is the offensive line’s struggles, but the lack of a clear leading back is not ideal either.

Miami is in a situation where they have the potential luxury to go out and add themselves a feature back. They are currently projected to have $75.8 million in cap space (with 37 players already set to be under contract). That would make the Dolphins an ideal landing spot for Fournette — Miami has the need and the resources to offer him the type of contract he might covet.

Fournette could be the answer to the Buffalo Bills’ running game

The Bills need to do something to address their own run game. They appear to have no trust in either Zack Moss or Devin Singletary to make plays. Through 13 games, their three primary backs have just 220 rush attempts. There have been times this season where the Bills have barely handed the ball off, even in the first half.

Additionally, the three backs are averaging just 3 targets per game, suggesting they don’t even trust them in the receiving game. That could be where Fournette is ideal for this offense. He has been effective when carrying the ball; he’s clearly trusted when it comes to pass blocking, and he can be an effective pass catcher out of the backfield. Cap space could be the issue, but teams can find ways around that.

Could the Arizona Cardinals look outside for their RB solution in 2022?

As it stands in Week 15 of the 2021 season, the Cardinals are set to see both James Conner and Chase Edmonds hit free agency in 2022. Therefore, they need to look to a potential replacement this offseason. Whether they are willing to invest a large chunk of their limited cap space in doing so is the question.

If the Cardinals make that decision, Fournette fits nicely in this offense. While Edmonds was injured, we witnessed how Conner has stepped up to be the all-purpose back. Fournette can also serve that role for the Cardinals and arguably do it better than Conner has. He would be a close-to-perfect fit for this offense.

The Buccaneers could yet look to bring Fournette back

Let’s look at an ideal world where the Buccaneers have just won a second straight Super Bowl. In that instance, would Fournette be willing to take a pay cut to come back and try to make it three straight? He has seemed comfortable in the Buccaneers’ offense, has a good rapport with Brady, and has grown into his role.

The Buccaneers are not flush with cap space, but they have enough to potentially make it work. They have several other areas to figure out, so it would be a matter of where Fournette sits in their priority list. However, the chance to go for another ring might be too much for him to pass up if he is happy in Tampa Bay.

Would the Chargers look to Fournette as an intriguing 1-2 punch with Austin Ekeler?

For this scenario to materialize, there would have to be an acceptance of lesser roles by both Fournette and Austin Ekeler. Ekeler has been superb for the Chargers, but a backfield combination of him and Fournette would be terrifying. The combination of both players running the ball or receiving out of the backfield would arguably be the most potent duo in the league.

For this to happen, the Chargers may have to pay slightly over the odds and offer a longer contract. Both backs would be accepting that they might be sacrificing their value down the line in a split role. The good news is that the Chargers have over $70 million in projected cap space, so they could certainly make it work.

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