Buccaneers paying running back is still a risky move

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans are rejoicing at the news of Leonard Fournette’s return. Make no mistake though, the Buccaneers paying the running back to come back is not without its risks.

Playoff Lenny is back. The Bucs will be bringing the fan-favorite back on a three-year deal for far less money than he was reportedly originally asking for.

On the surface, there’s reason for optimism and even excitement. It’s a great short-term move. Call it the Tom Brady effect. An established veteran takes a pay-cut to play with the greatest of all time who himself also took a pay-cut to make it possible. Here’s the thing though, long-term it’s a risky move, and while it should pay off in the short-term as well, that doesn’t mean it’s a bulletproof plan.

The NFL unofficially stands for “Not For Long”. As such, teams have to be extra careful with their money due to the hard salary cap. Players will always come and go, but the most crucial are the ones who should be paid to stay.

This being the case, running back is the most expendable position in not just the pass-happy NFL, but all of sports. Despite the explosion of the passing game, establishing the run is still important, and as a result, the average career length of an NFL running back is about 3.3 years due to the punishment the bodies of the brave souls playing this position takes. It’s why teams rarely pay them long-term and tend to turn towards the Draft. Those that do sign them to big money deals also tend to regret it. Obviously, Fournette has eclipsed this 3.3 mark, and has proven to be worth the risk, but that doesn’t make him invincible.

Fournette has struggling with injuries in his career, and missed three games in 2021 as a result. Time will tell if this becomes a recurring issue, and the amount of missed games increases.

Now, this is not to say Fournette is not a good player. Far from it. He is a great player and true workhorse who comes on the strongest late in the season. This is especially true in the postseason, hence the nickname “Playoff Lenny”, which of course evolved into his final form of “Lombardi Lenny”.

When Brady does eventually hang up the cleats, for more than a month and a half of course, the Buccaneers will need all the money they can get to keep their solid roster around for the next quarterback. Cap room being eaten by an aging running back may not be the most ideal in hindsight when there’s always a thing called the NFL Draft to snag a back in later rounds.

Thats a future-Bucs issue though for the long-term. Short-term, Leonard Fournette should continue to produce in the way that has endeared him to fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers everywhere. Of course, that’s not to say the move is not without risk in either term though.