On a wild and crazy Friday in the NFL, one signing went a bit under-the-radar as Leonard Fournette re-signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for one-year, $4 million dollars. The Buccaneers’ goal was to bring all the pieces of their championship team back for another run in 2021, and with Fournette that mission has been accomplished. The Buccaneers have all 22 starters from the Super Bowl under contract for 2021.
Fournette, a former First Round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars was a limited contributor during the regular season. He rushed for 367 yards and six TDs, drawing just 97 regular season carries. But with Ronald Jones injured, Fournette played a key role in the post-season, including adding 89 rushing yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl victory.
A larger question is what Fournette’s signing means for fantasy. The Buccaneers return Jones and second-year running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a Third-Round pick in the 2020 draft. In 2020, Jones remained the team’s top back, rushing for 978 yards and seven TDs, starting 13 games for the team. Vaughn, meanwhile, was limited to 109 yards rushing and five receptions for 34 yards and a TD. He split time with veteran LeSean McCoy as well.
The Buccaneers were rumored to have been in talks with veteran James White before he re-signed with the Patriots. Fournette re-signing may indicate he’ll again be more of a focus in the passing game, where he led all Buccaneers’ running backs in 2020 with 36 receptions for 233 yards. From a fantasy perspective, Fournette re-signing muddles the value for all three running backs, though it likely hurts Vaughn the most.
Heading into year two, the hope was Vaughn would get a chance for an expanded role. He was a talented prospect coming out of Vanderbilt, rushing for 2,272 yards and 21 TDs, catching 41 passes for 440 yards and three TDs in two seasons. With Jones in place and Fournette back, Vaughn is likely third in the pecking order. But as the only one under contract beyond 2021, Vaughn could still pay a return to dynasty players willing to wait.
Among the other two, the biggest question is split. Fournette figured to get a big workload in 2020 but it didn’t materialize. After his post-season performance, he could again be in line for a bigger workload. In terms of fantasy, I have Fournette and Jones both as mid-range RB3s until the split is determined. In 2020, Jones finished as RB20 and Fournette finished as RB35. If one carves out a lead role they can leap up into RB2 range.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.