Every season, NFL free agency has a similar path. We see a flurry of signings early, but a handful of players take their time. As someone who primarily writes about fantasy football, I am extremely interested in where Leonard Fournette signs. What are our predictions for where Fournette will play in 2022?
Predictions for Leonard Fournette in 2022 NFL free agency
For the third consecutive season, Fournette is a free agent. Prior to the 2020 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars cut him in August. Fournette latched on with the Bucs and then played out of his mind in the playoffs, leading to a Super Bowl victory. Unsurprisingly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave him another one-year deal before the 2021 season.
Fournette had a stellar 2021 campaign, totaling 1,266 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns before a hamstring strain derailed his regular season.
Fournette returned for the Bucs’ second postseason game and was his usual superb self. He carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards and 2 touchdowns plus 9 receptions for 56 yards in the Bucs’ loss to the Rams.
At 27 years old, Fournette should still have three really good years left in him. Will he return to Tampa Bay for another season or find a new home in 2022?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Perhaps I’m trying to will this into existence, but I still think a return to the Bucs is the most likely outcome. Fournette revitalized his career in Tampa Bay while playing with the greatest quarterback of all time. Tom Brady is back, and he’s getting the band back together (I hope).
There are several capable running backs available in free agency. The Bucs haven’t signed any of them yet, and it feels like they’re waiting on Fournette.
With that said, Fournette definitely strikes me as a player that may chase the money. He’s probably not getting the biggest contract from the Bucs. Fournette’s last two contracts netted him a combined $5.25 million. The man was unfairly maligned for three consecutive seasons and deserves a payday.
If 27-year-old James Conner can get three years, $21 million, the significantly more talented Fournette should consider that his absolute floor. With nearly $8 million in salary cap space, the Bucs can certainly afford Fournette. Are they willing to pay him? I sure hope so.
The Falcons lost out on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes and now need to figure out if their relationship with Matt Ryan can be prepared. It’s clear the Falcons want to move on from Ryan, but only if they have a suitable replacement. With Watson in Cleveland, they simply do not, so it’s Ryan or bust for another season.
This team is really caught in a tough spot because they waited too long to rebuild. Now, they’re almost forced to try and go all-in on 2022 with a very depleted roster.
Running back is the last position any team should fill, but it is a need for Atlanta. They also have a history of signing veteran running backs. It didn’t work out so well with Mike Davis or Todd Gurley, but Fournette is much better now than either of those guys were when the Falcons signed them.
The Falcons have about $5 million in cap space. They can afford to give Fournette a multi-year deal worth $7-8 million a year. To be fair, I don’t understand why they would. Locking up a running back without a quarterback or wide receivers is the epitome of doing things backward. Nevertheless, this team needs playmakers, and Fournette is also excellent in the receiving game. If he does go to Atlanta, I would expect a one or two-year deal.
Now for a team that’s very clearly in the midst of a rebuild. The Texans have no reason to give Fournette a lengthy contract, but they could pay him the most for 2022.
Houston’s backfield currently consists of a bunch of journeymen veterans. They’ve got Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale, and Royce Freeman. Last season, they had David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay. This team needs a true RB1.
Fournette is not going to turn the Texans into a contender. No RB is capable of moving the needle to that extent. What he can do is provide this offense with a playmaker and give fans someone to get excited about watching.
The Texans have $13 million in salary cap space and the allure of promising Fournette a three-down role. Even if he doesn’t get a multi-year deal, the Texans can give Fournette $8-10 million for one year. It all comes down to what Fournette wants, but after back-to-back prove it contracts where he undoubtedly “proved it,” Fournette may want to get paid. I wouldn’t blame him. The Texans are well-equipped to do so.