As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue their march in the NFL playoffs, Leonard Fournette’s future remains uncertain. When the final whistle blows, he will be looking for a new landing spot for 2022 and beyond. With fewer teams relying on a singular, workhorse-style back, where are some potential landing spots for Leonard Fournette as he enters free agency in 2022? How would those destinations affect Fournette’s fantasy football value?
Leonard Fournette landing spots
After signing a one-year deal before the 2020 NFL season, Fournette’s playoff explosion helped to secure a second one-year contract with the Buccaneers for 2021. It’s safe to say that was $3.25 million well spent. Fournette finished the regular season 14th in scrimmage yards with 1,266 and 10 total touchdowns.
Fournette took over the backfield from Ronald Jones and played on 63% of the offensive snaps. He rushed 180 times for 812 yards and 8 touchdowns and made a massive impact in the receiving game. Fournette was just 5 targets shy of Rob Gronkowski with 84, recording 69 receptions for 454 yards and 2 scores. He finished third in the NFL among RBs in targets, receptions, and yards, behind only Austin Ekeler and Najee Harris.
Although more and more teams are choosing to use multiple backs as opposed to a singular bell-cow RB, Fournette has a body of work that will be desirable on the open market, given that he can play on all three downs.
Spotrac projects a two-year, $12 million contract for Fournette, which does seem like a great value even in the current “running backs don’t matter” climate. With that in mind, which teams could be in the market for a player with Fournette’s skill set?
Staying in Tampa Bay is logical for Fournette
There’s no place like home. The grass isn’t always greener. Pick the saying — they all apply. Staying in Tampa Bay makes sense for Fournette. Not only is he clearly familiar with the offense, but there is no definitive player behind him on the depth chart that head coach Bruce Arians, or more importantly Tom Brady, would want to rely on in their championship window.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn is still a wild card, and both Jones and Giovani Bernard are set to become free agents. There are some other viable options set to hit free agency, such as Melvin Gordon, Rashaad Penny, and James Conner, while the Buccaneers could also draft another RB. However, for a team looking to win another Super Bowl with Brady at the helm, there would be no reason not to bring back Fournette at this point. Odds are, this is Fourette’s landing spot in 2022.
Miami will be a trendy name as a landing spot for Fournette
The Dolphins must figure out their running back situation. For as good as Myles Gaskin looked in 2020, he took a steep nosedive in 2021. As a team, the Dolphins were 30th in rushing despite sitting 18th in attempts (442). Their 3.5 yards per carry average was second-worst in the NFL, just ahead of Atlanta. Their RBs combined for only 7 TDs on the ground.
Without question, Miami’s offensive line did them no favors, as they ranked 30th in DOVA and line adjusted yards (3.81). While they will address this in the offseason, they need a running back who can generate yards when the hole is not always present, like Fournette. With the most projected 2022 cap space in the NFL, money will not be an issue for the Dolphins. Yet, landing Fournette on a team-friendly two-year deal can offer them a solid stop-gap as they figure out their future.
Could the Los Angeles Chargers be a surprising landing spot for Fournette?
“But they have Austin Ekeler already!” Yes, you are absolutely correct. Ekeler is one of the best running backs in the NFL. Pound for pound, he might be the best athlete on the field anytime he is out there. Ekeler signed a four-year deal before the 2020 season, so he’s under contract for at least the next two campaigns.
But do the Chargers want Ekeler to continually handle the 275+ touches he saw last season? That’s 50 more than Ekeler managed at any time in his career, as he largely shared the Chargers’ backfield with Melvin Gordon for years.
A 1-2 punch with Ekeler and Fournette could be lethal. Both backs are great on the ground. Although Ekeler would be the preferred passing-down back, neither would need to come off the field in order for LA to go up-tempo. I am sure fantasy managers would hate this, but the NFL does not care about that.
Would the Buffalo Bills look to Fournette to bolster their backfield?
We have been linking running backs to Buffalo for several years now. This is a powerhouse offense that has very few “holes.” But if you want to give them a potential upgrade, landing Fournette in free agency might be the move.
Zack Moss has not panned out and is a healthy scratch as often as he actually plays. Devin Singletary was a welcome surprise this season and gave us a sneak peek of what a featured back could do in this offense. He’s averaged 21.2 opportunities, 98 yards, and scored 8 touchdowns in his last five games. The Bills only have $10.9 million in projected cap space, so Fournette could be a savvy way to bolster the RB position.