While the Bucs are focused on keeping their Super Bowl LV champion team together by re-signing their own free agents, Tampa Bay will be looking to upgrade a number of positions. PewterReport.com takes a look at each unit over the next week, showcasing which players Tampa Bay could lose, and which players might replace them, including our Bucs’ Best Bets.

2021 Bucs Free Agent RBs

RB Leonard Fournette
RB LeSean McCoy
RB Kenjon Barner
RB T.J. Logan

Fournette rehabilitated his image this year in Tampa Bay and really came on in the postseason after splitting time with Ronald Jones II during the season. Fournette became known as “Playoff Lenny” and scored a touchdown in each of the team’s three playoff games and the Super Bowl. The Bucs wouldn’t mind having the 26-year old Fournette back, but only at the right price. He probably wants a starting job all for himself and the big money that comes with it after signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal last year.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

If Fournette leaves, the Bucs will need to sign or draft a running back capable of helping shoulder the load. Bruce Arians’ system calls for two backs, and the Bucs will need more than just a third-down back because Fournette was actually a three-down back in Tampa Bay. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, last year’s third-round pick, wasn’t spectacular during his rookie season and the Bucs don’t know if he’s a player that can truly help carry the load or just a role player destined for a small part in Tampa Bay’s offense.

The 33-year old McCoy is likely done after a very good NFL career and winning back-to-back Super Bowls with Kansas City and Tampa Bay. He was used earlier in the season on third downs. Logan, who was slated to be the Bucs’ kick and punt returner, was lost for the season in training camp with a knee injury. Barner was signed to replace Logan on kick returns and missed time due to injury. McCoy, Barner and Logan are all replaceable, and the team did sign veteran C.J. Prosise, who has kick return ability, in the offseason.

Top NFL Free Agent Running Backs Available

1. Aaron Jones – Packers
2. Chris Carson – Seahawks
3. Kenyan Drake – Cardinals
4. James Conner – Steelers
5. Mike Davis – Panthers

Others: Leonard Fournette (Bucs), Duke Johnson (Texans), James White (Patriots), Le’Veon Bell (Chiefs), Jamaal Williams (Packers), Matt Breida (49ers), Todd Gurley (Falcons), Tevin Coleman (49ers), Jerick McKinnon (49ers), Dion Lewis (Giants)

Bucs’ RB Outlook

Bucs ILB Devin White and Giants RB Dion Lewis

Bucs ILB Devin White and Giants RB Dion Lewis – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs won’t break the bank for any running back, especially with a good crop of backs in this year’s NFL Draft. With more than half of its running back stable poised to depart in free agency, Tampa Bay needs to find a back capable of playing on first and second downs along with Jones, who is entering the final year of his contract, and another running back that can handle the third-down role, as that’s not Jones’ strength. The Bucs won’t pay big money, so that eliminates Jones, Carson, Drake and Conner right off the bat – and maybe Fournette, too.

If Davis doesn’t cash in during free agency, Tampa Bay could wait after the initial rush of free agency to see if the former Panthers back has a reasonable price tag. Davis is a solid runner and receiver – but he’s 28 and made $3 million last year. The Bucs wouldn’t sign him for any more, and would probably like him a lot more if his asking price was cheaper.

Whoever the Bucs sign in free agency needs to have great hands, as catching the ball out of the backfield was a challenge at times for Tampa Bay’s running backs last year, as there were too many dropped passes. There are actually three pass-catching backs that have played with Tom Brady before in New England – White, Lewis and Rex Burkhead – available in free agency this year. Lewis and Burkhead, who is coming off a torn ACL in Week 11, are both 31, while James is 29 and might have more gas left in the tank.

Bucs’ Best Bet: James White

Patriots RB James White and QB Tom Brady

Patriots RB James White and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

White played with Brady for six years and the two have tremendous chemistry. White has rushed for 1,240 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging 4.0 yards per carry in his seven-year career as the Patriots’ third-down back. More importantly, White has 369 career catches for 3,184 yards and 25 touchdowns. He had his best year in 2018 when he ran for 425 yards and a TD along with a career-high 87 catches for 751 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. White’s production dipped in 2020 without Brady, as he recorded only 49 receptions for 375 yards and one score with just 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns. White made $4 million last year but would have to want come to Tampa Bay for less for a chance to reunite with Brady.

Don’t rule out a return by Logan on a cheap, one-year deal if he gets a clean bill of health after his knee injury last August. The Bucs like his speed, his receiving ability and his punt and kick return skills.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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5 months ago

I’ll be curious to see if they resign TJ Logan. He seems to be the forgotten man, but looked pretty impressive pre-injury. If I remember, Bruce seemed to really like him too. And he’d be dirt cheap.

43 Is Only Old in Human Years
5 months ago

Of course continue the Snow Birding of New England to Tampa, Need the coach next

5 months ago

I would like to see them pick up White and even still Draft a pass catching back in rounds 1-3. If Howard can have a healthy year this year and RoJo makes even more strides as a runner (if not also a pass catcher) and we have 2 RBs behind him that have solid hands, our Offense will truly be lethal. Everyone should understand just how lethal that underneath RB route is. Arians likes to push the ball downfield and Brady settled into that as the year went on but it was when we finally started using bubble screen and… Read more »

5 months ago

The list of viable options for what we really NEED from a RB signing this offseason is absurdly long. White is definitely at the top of my wish list if we sign someone, but there are seriously so many strong 3rd down RBs hitting free agency – the aforementioned Burkhead, Lewis, Mike Davis, and Duke Johnson, plus another two handfuls worth of other options – (in no particular order) Lamar Miller, Tevin Coleman, TJ Yeldon, Chris Thompson, Jerick McKinnon, Ty Montgomery, Theo Riddick, Jamaal Williams, and Marlon Mack. Again, White is my #1 hope, but if we can’t land a… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by toofamiliar17
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

Mack is good, but he don’t catch out of the backfield. Miller is done for, past his time. As well as most of the other backs you named. Hard pass here. Our best bet is to get Rojo working on nothing but catching and blocking this off season and hope Vaughn can make a year 2 leap like Rojo did, then look to the draft. I would take a flier on White, but I don’t think he has much left in the tank. Maybe for one year he might be decent. He also seems to get injured a lot.

Reply to  Dude
4 months ago

Good call on Mack, I really thought he was a more prolific pass catcher than he has been in his career. Strange, as he seemingly has the natural tools and skillset one would expect from a good 3rd down RB. We don’t need any of these guys to be in their primes. We’re not looking for a STUD running back. Just a guy who can reliably pass block and can execute a basic route tree out of the backfield with sure hands to secure receptions when the opportunities come to him. Everyone I named (except for Mack, again, and maybe… Read more »

Reply to  Dude
4 months ago

You don’t think White has a lot left in the tank? He’s only 29. And he’s 29 with under 700 career touches. And as far as injuries are concerned, he’s played in 89 of a possible 96 games in the last 6 years. He’s very durable. I think you’re mistaking him for Burkhead. He’s the injury prone Pat RB

Reply to  Dave
4 months ago

To be fair to Dude’s viewpoint, the standard age for RB the decline period to start to kick in heavily for RBs is 28, the youngest of any position in the league. Now, that said, I would worry more about that when it comes to signing a guy you expect to take on a heavy carry workload. But for a scat back like White whose game is built on catching the ball and playing in space, I see no reason to anticipate a sharp dropoff for him soon. In the role for which we’re looking for a veteran RB, White’s… Read more »

Reply to  Dude
4 months ago

RoJo need more than one off season of hard work on pass catching to catch up to White. Are you sure you are not confusing Burhardt with White? The former does get hurt a lot. But a more hard nose running than White.

The Wall
4 months ago

Keep it simple…..sign White. He’s all we need at RB. Then use the draft to draft best OL or edge rusher.

4 months ago

100% agreed on White. Easily the best choice for us. We just need a back that can catch, and block. Because I have full confidence in Rojo, to carry the ball 250-300 times. If we have him as our pure runner, and White to catch balls and block… behind our OLine, and with Brady at QB, that’s more than enough for a very effective backfield