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FAB 1. Bucs RB Fournette Is Earning A Contract Extension

I’m a big believer in the notion that NFL teams shouldn’t pay running backs – they should draft them instead.

I don’t necessarily believe that running backs are a dime a dozen, as the league does have some elite talent at the position. Yet overpaying for a running back in free agency or over-drafting one in the first round doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Especially with the way the NFL has become such a passing league.

And especially in Tampa Bay, where the Bucs have been a pass-first team under the “quarterback whisperer” Bruce Arians.

But I’m about to break my notion and suggest that the Bucs actually pay Leonard Fournette next year when he’s scheduled to be a free agent.

I’m not saying pay Fournette a king’s ransom. Maybe more like a prince’s ransom.

A couple of the best running backs in the league have really earned their big contract extensions, including Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon.

But several teams have made some really bad investments at the running back position over the years, too. Here are some examples.

Eagles RB DeMarco Murray – five years, $40 million in 2015
Bucs RB Doug Martin – five years, $35.75 million in 2016
49ers RB Jerrick McKinnon – four years, $30 million in 2018
Jets RB Le’Veon Bell – four years, $52.5 million in 2018
Rams RB Todd Gurley – four years, $57 million in 2018
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey – four years, $64 million in 2020

Deals like Gurley’s can wreck a team’s salary cap. Just ask Los Angeles, which is in for a salary cap reckoning based on the impact Gurley’s dead cap money had on the team and the mortgaging of the Rams’ future with their recent acquisitions.

Murray, Martin, McKinnon and Bell never lived up to their contracts either due to injury or ineffectiveness.

McCaffrey is one of the league’s best running backs – when healthy. But since becoming the highest-paid back in the NFL, he’s played in just 10 games over the past two seasons – both of which have ended with McCaffrey being on injured reserve. He’s totaled 667 rushing yards and six touchdowns, in addition to catching 54 passes for 492 yards and two touchdowns in the 10 games he’s played in, but McCaffrey has missed 19 games over the past two years.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

Is Fournette a future Hall of Fame running back? Of course not.

Is he an All-Pro running back – one of the best in football? No.

Is he a Pro Bowl back? Not really, although he has put up some decent stats over the past year.

But what Fournette is to the Bucs offense is a really good fit. He’s earned the trust of the Bucs coaching staff – and perhaps more importantly – quarterback Tom Brady.

Fournette became “Playoff Lenny” and ultimately “Lombardi Lenny” in the postseason last year, rushing for 300 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries (4.7 avg.), while catching 18 of his 21 targets for 148 yards (8.2 avg.) and 1 TD.

Since then he’s put a stranglehold on the starting running back job, relegating Ronald Jones II, who nearly had 1,000 yards rushing last year, to just a couple of carries per game in relief. Fournette has also kept Giovani Bernard, who was signed to be the team’s third-down back in the offseason, off the field and on the bench on most third downs this year.

In 13 games this season, Fournette has rushed for 778 yards and eight touchdowns on 171 carries (4.6 avg.), while catching 62 of 77 targets for 421 yards (6.8 avg.) and a career-high two touchdowns. He’s on pace for over 1,000 yards.

Add in last year’s four postseason games to this year’s 13, and in the last 17 games, Fournette has rushed for 1,078 yards and 11 TDs, while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He’s also caught 80 passes for 569 yards (7.1 avg.) and three TDs. That’s a combined 1,647 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Believe it or not, that puts Fournette into the total production conversation with Chubb, Cook, Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott to name a few when factoring in Fournette’s ability to catch the ball. Fournette is coming off his most productive three-game stretch of the season, too.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

He rushed for 100 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry in a 38-31 comeback win at Indianapolis. Fournette also caught seven passes for 31 yards and another touchdown to earn NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

“He had a great game,” Brady said. “Leonard (Fournette) played great in the run game and the pass game.”

Arians praised Fournette after his four-touchdown effort at Indianapolis.

“He finds the holes,” Arians said. “He’s a 240-pound back that can run, and usually he’s coming out the back of Mike Evans’ side. You know he (Evans) is being doubled, so you’re going to have soft coverage. Those four and five-yard check-downs turn into 11 [yards] real quick and then he breaks a tackle – like he did in a two-minute drill – and it is a 13-[yard gain]. So, don’t force it down the field. He’s doing a heck of a job in the passing game. It was a nice catch and a run on the touchdown and a really good throw by Tom. He’s just playing at a really high, consistent level. He’s doing a good job as a pass protector also.”

With the Bucs trailing by 10 points at halftime, Fournette also took the rare opportunity to step up as a vocal leader, giving an impassioned speech at halftime.

“It was excellent,” Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “It got everyone fired up though and he went out there and backed it up too and it just shows just how much respect we give Lenny.”

His four-touchdown performance earned him the nickname “FOUR-nette” on Twitter. Gronkowski gave him a new nickname, “Fourtuddiesssss.”

“I have plenty of names,” Fournette said. “Just being here, earning their respect and calling those guys my brothers – it means a lot to me. Coming from where I come from and the situations I have been in. Now I have a family in a different part of Florida. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

And that’s why I’m leaning towards the Bucs opening up the checkbook for Fournette. He’s bought in to the Buccaneer Way.

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich and RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich and RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Lenny is growing,” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “I told you guys that he’s becoming a pro. I think he’s becoming a pro. His approach to the game, the way he approaches practice, the way he goes into football games, [he’s] more detailed than he has ever been before, so he’s just working. He’s working to become [the best] football player he can be. That’s what you love about it. All of our guys go out every day and try to be a better version of themselves and try to practice that way. You appreciate it as a coach. I think he’s just becoming a pro and we’re seeing all of that work pay off.”

The next week at Atlanta, Fournette rushed for 44 yards on 13 carries, but had seven catches for 48 yards, including the first touchdown of the game. In last week’s 33-27 overtime win against Buffalo, Fournette had a season-high 113 yards on 19 carries (5.9 avg.), including a season-long 47-yard TD run. He also caught four passes for 19 yards.

So how much is Fournette worth?

Fournette is earning $3.25 million this year after signing a one-year deal last offseason. Jones is earning $1.44 million and has a cap value of $2.25 million. Due to his $826,182 base salary and his prorated signing bonus from last year, Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s cap value is $1,089,909 this year. With the veteran exemption, Bernard has a cap value of $987,500.

The Bucs have about $7.5 million invested in their four running backs this year. With Jones and Bernard also being free agents in 2022, I would be comfortable investing an average of $6 million into Fournette’s next deal on a two-year extension. That’s almost double what he’s making this year and would make Fournette the 13th-highest paid running back in the NFL. It’s actually quite a bargain, given Fournette’s production.

And it’s still cheaper than the deal general manager Jason Licht extended to Martin after the 2014 season without a long-term commitment.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I would let Jones leave via free agency, re-sign Bernard to another year at the veteran exemption, and draft a running back in 2022 to team with Fournette and Vaughn next season.

What makes Fournette’s situation a bit tricky is that he’s going to turn 27 next year. I asked Pro Football Focus’ salary cap expert Brad Spielberger for his thoughts on Fournette’s next deal.

“Comps probably won’t be great, as the league has shown they value the position differently now, but he’s definitely earned himself a nice payday,” Spielberger said. “I think two solid comps could be the deal Marshawn Lynch signed in 2015 – two years, $24 million. He was 29 to Fournette’s 27. And Frank Gore’s 2011 deal, which was three years at $18.9 million at age 28.

“Maybe a desperate team steps up and offers $10 million per year. Don’t see it going past that. Nick Chubb got $36 million over three and that changed the game for everyone. It was an official stamp on the idea that running back contracts are going to trend downward and plateau a bit. I know that’s a pretty huge range but I still think a two- or three-year deal for around $8 million per year is a decent guess.”

I like Fournette better at $6 million than I do $8 million. I also like the 2021 version of Fournette much better than the 2020 version when he was almost cut after the bye week for not accepting his role as a role player.

“It seems like ages ago,” Arians said. “He’s doing a great job getting himself prepared each and every week right now and playing at a high, high, high level.”

Not only is Fournette the Bucs’ leading rusher, but his 77 targets in the passing game rank third on the team behind Chris Godwin (120) and Mike Evans (99), which only further demonstrates his value to the pass-happy Bucs. Fournette has more targets than Gronkowski (56) and Antonio Brown (42), although both have been injured.

Fournette is worth keeping.

This version of Fournette – the guy who has earned the trust of Brady and the coaching staff, and the guy that has done a lot of maturing with the Bucs over the past two years. Fournette has gotten better as the season has gone on, and should that continue, he should stay in Tampa Bay.

FAB 2. Bucs Need To Draft A Pass-Catching RB In 2022

Whether or not the Bucs re-sign Leonard Fournette they’re going to have to draft a running back in 2022. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the only back under contract and he’s totally unproven with 109 yards rushing during his rookie season a year ago, and just 31 yards on eight carries in 2021.

It doesn’t make sense for the Bucs to draft a running back in the first round with more pressing needs at defensive tackle and cornerback in 2022. And by the time the Bucs select in the second round – where the team drafted Ronald Jones II in 2018 – most top-tier backs like Iowa State’s Breece Hall, Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller, Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III and Alabama’s Brian Robinson – could possibly be gone.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

So which running backs could Tampa Bay focus on in the 2022 NFL Draft? Not all underclassmen have declared yet, so this question will have a much clearer answer in January. But there are a couple of intriguing names that you should know of.

The one caveat is that whichever running back the Bucs draft, that player must be able to catch the ball. Fournette is Tampa Bay’s third-leading receiver with 62 catches for 421 yards (6.8 avg.) and two touchdowns. There is a reason why the Bucs will likely move from Jones, who will be a free agent next March. It’s because he’s not a good receiver out of the backfield, nor is he good in pass protection.

So let’s focus on that aspect of the draft-eligible running backs in 2022 – they have to be good receivers in addition to being good runners.

UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet is a big back at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. A transfer from Michigan, Charbonnet rushed for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns last year wile averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He also caught 24 passes for 197 yards (8.2 avg.) out of the backfield. Charbonnet is more of a power back than he is a speedy, elusive rusher, but that’s kind of what Fournette is, too. The Bruin is a real bruiser with a wicked stiff arm and a violent running style. There might not be a harder runner in this year’s draft than Charbonnet, who could be a target in the third round.

Arizona State’s Rachaad White is interesting player in that he resembles Fournette so much. He’s a bigger back at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and he runs with more power than outright speed. He’s a potential third- or fourth-round draft pick, which is where I see Tampa Bay possibly spending a selection on a running back after addressing more pressing needs at defensive tackle and cornerback in April. White rushed for 1,005 yards and 15 TDs last season, while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He also caught 43 passes for 456 yards (10.1 avg.) and one TD as one of the more productive pass-catching backs in the nation last year. White will be drafted between rounds 3-5 depending on his 40-time.

Another running back that catches the ball well is Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams. At 5-foot-9, 199 pounds, he’s closer to Warrick Dunn in size than Fournette, but he’s a good combo back in terms of running and receiving. Williams is thick and quick and is a player that can slip tackles and break tackles. His low center of gravity makes him difficult for defenders to bring down. Williams has a nose for the first down and the end zone, and a knack of making something out of nothing at times. He’s likely a Day 3 pick, but if he times well in the 40-yard dash he could wind up being taken in the third round. Williams’ style is reminiscent of North Carolina’s Michael Carter from a year ago.

Hawaii’s Calvin Turner, Jr. will be a name to know in the pre-draft process. One of the biggest sleepers in this year’s draft, Turner is one of college football’s most electrifying players. After rushing for back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons and a combined 32 touchdowns at Jacksonville University, Turner transferred to Hawaii where he had just 316 yards and eight TDs on the ground. But Turner posted an astounding 73 catches for 876 yards (12 avg.) and four receiving scores in his lone season for the Warriors. Turner has natural hands, and at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, he resembles Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell from last year’s draft. Turner’s game is tailor-made for the NFL as a pass-catching runner, and the Bucs should have him on their radar.

Washington State’s Max Borghi is an interesting player in that he’s dealt with some injuries, but can be very effective when healthy. He had a pair of 800-yard rushing seasons sandwiched between a COVID-shortened, injury-riddled year in 2020. Borghi has a nose for the end zone, evidenced by 11 rushing TDs in 2019 and a dozen last year despite never posting more than 160 rush attempts in any season. After catching 53 passes for 374 yards and four TDs as a freshman, Borghi caught 86 passes for 597 yards and six scores the next year. Surprisingly, Borghi had just 16 receptions for 156 yards last year, but that was because he was in a new offense. At 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, Borghi resembles a poor man’s Christian McCaffrey. It doesn’t take much to see him in red and pewter with his ability to catch the ball.

Florida’s Dameon Pierce checks in at 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, and had back-to-back 500-yard seasons for the Gators, rushing for a team-high 12 touchdowns with a 5.9-average this year. He also caught 18 passes for 217 yards (12.1 avg.) and three TDs as a senior. Pierce is more quick than fast, but runs extremely hard and has a nice, sudden juke move. He’ll get a glowing reference from Bucs backup quarterback and fellow Gator alum Kyle Trask. His 40-time will determine whether he’s an early or late Day 3 pick.

A small school back that could garner some interest on Day 3 is South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong, Jr. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound back rushed for 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons for the Jackrabbits, including his senior season with 1,579 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He’s got sneaky speed and a nice stiff arm. Strong also had back-to-back seasons with 21 catches the past two years – and he also has an astounding six career touchdown throws on HB passes.

Georgia’s James Cook split carries with Zamir White, but might be the better pro due to his ability to catch the ball. With electric feet, Cook rushed for 619 yards and seven touchdowns, while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. He also caught 21 passes for 157 yards (7.5 avg.) and three TDs. Cook runs hard for a back that is just 5-foot-11, 190 pounds and is a slippery, slashing rusher. His size will never allow him to be a feature back in the NFL, but he is a nice complementary back as a Day 3 pick that will be a factor on passing downs.

Missouri’s Tyler Badie had a monster senior season with 1,604 yards and 14 touchdowns, while averaging 6.0 yards per carry. He also had a career-high 54 catches for 330 yards and four receiving TDs. Badie has gone over 330 yard receiving in each of the last three seasons, averaging 38 receptions per season over that span. He runs with good vision and has a decent burst. But at 5-foot-8, 194 pounds, Badie will be more of a third-down, pass-catcher like Giovani Bernard at the next level as a Day 3 selection.

FAB 3. 4 Matchups To Watch: Bucs Offense vs. Saints Defense

Each week you can find 4 Match-Ups To Watch on offense and defense in my SR’s Fab 5 column. Here is preview of Tampa Bay’s rematch against New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday Night Football. The Bucs are favored by 11.5 points and can wrap up the NFC South division title with a victory. Here is a look at Tampa Bay’s key players on offense vs. New Orleans’ key defenders.

Bucs QB Tom Brady vs. Saints MLB Demario Davis

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

The 32-year old Davis is the oldest player at his position in the NFL, but he’s also the best player on the New Orleans defense. At 6-foot-2, 248 pounds, Davis is fast and physical and is a playmaker against both the run and the pass. Davis recorded two sacks of Brady in the three games against the Bucs in 2020 and is a dangerous blitzer. He has three sacks on the season, which is tied for the third on the team. The cerebral Davis has a history of making the right checks on defense to get the Saints into plays that have foiled Brady and the Bucs in the past.

Brady has not played well against the Saints in any meeting outside of the 30-20 playoff win in New Orleans last year. He’s thrown seven interceptions and just eight touchdowns, although a few of those picks weren’t on Brady. While he had one of his better outings against Davis and the Saints in the previous meeting, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns, Brady did throw two interceptions, including a late pick-six to seal the loss. While Davis didn’t sack Brady on Halloween, fellow linebacker Kwon Alexander did, recording one of New Orleans’ three sacks on the day.

Tampa Bay RT Tristan Wirfs vs. New Orleans DE Cameron Jordan

Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs and QB Tom Brady and Saints DE Cameron Jordan

Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs and QB Tom Brady and Saints DE Cameron Jordan – Photo by: USA Today

At age 32, Jordan isn’t the pass rusher he used to be and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to reach double-digit sacks this season. Jordan has only four sacks this year after notching 7.5 in 2020. The Saints legend had three straight years with 12 sacks or more prior to that. One of Jordan’s four sacks this season did come at Wirfs’ expense on Halloween, so he must still be dealt with on every snap.

After three straight dominant shutouts of Jordan in his rookie season, including last year’s playoff win at New Orleans, Wirfs finally gave up a sack to the perennial Pro Bowler. Although he technically didn’t get beat on the play, Wirfs gave some ground to Jordan, who reached his hand around and knocked the ball out of Tom Brady’s right arm to force a fumble. That counted as a sack and Wirfs will be looking to atone for that on Sunday night.

Bucs WR Mike Evans vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The 6-foot, 192-pound Lattimore has fared well against Evans in years past, but it’s hard to believe that he only has one career interception against the Bucs in his first four years since being drafted by the Saints. That came back in 2018. Yet Evans clearly got the better of him on Halloween. Not only did Lattimore give up a 41-yard touchdown to Evans, he also blew the coverage that allowed Cyril Grayson to catch a 50-yard touchdown in the second half, too.

It’s crazy to think that Evans has just one 100-yard game against New Orleans in 15 career games, but it’s true. Evans dominated his match-up with Lattimore on Halloween, but Tom Brady only found him twice for 48 yards, including a 41-yard TD. If Evans can win routes against Lattimore again on Sunday night Brady will have to look his way more often and perhaps he can record his second 100-yard game against the Saints in his illustrious career.

Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin vs. New Orleans CB C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Bucs WR Chris Godwin

Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: USA Today

Gardner-Johnson came up with a big interception right before halftime although he was clearly holding on the play and it wasn’t called. Outside of that splash play, which led to a Saints touchdown, Gardner-Johnson got cooked by Godwin and the Bucs receivers all day. The New Orleans slot cornerback surrendered eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns – one to Godwin and one to running back Giovani Bernard. He was targeted 11 times on Halloween a truly scary performance by the Saints DB.

Godwin usually has big games against New Orleans and that was the case once again in the teams’ first meeting. The Bucs’ slot receiver had five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown while working over Gardner-Johnson pretty good in the process. He finished the game with a team-high eight catches for 140 yards in the losing effort. It’s safe to say that the Bucs feel like this is a match-up Godwin can win and he will be heavily targeted once again.

FAB 4. 4 Match-ups To Watch: Bucs Defense vs. Saints Offense

Each week you can find 4 Match-Ups To Watch on offense and defense in my SR’s Fab 5 columns. While the Bucs knocked Jameis Winston out of the game on Halloween, backup Trevor Siemian came in to stun Tampa Bay’s defense. The Bucs didn’t force a single turnover, and only recorded one sack in a terrible performance. Here are the key match-ups to watch on Sunday when the Saints have the ball.

Bucs ILB Devin White vs. Saints RB Alvin Kamara

Bucs ILB Devin White

Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kamara has never had a 100-yard rushing game against the Bucs before in 10 games, but he did have a 100-yard receiving game back in 2018. Yet there have been plenty of touchdowns – 10 (seven rushing and three receiving) – and multiple 100-yard games of combined offense. Six to be exact. Kamara has rushed for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 87 carries (3.9 avg.) in six games against White and Todd Bowles’ defense. And he’s also been a real threat as a receiver out of the backfield with 32 catches for 184 yards and one touchdown. Kamara has missed three games due to injury, but still has 985 yards of total offense (650 rushing, 335 receiving) and eight combined touchdowns on the season.

White has done a remarkable job covering Kamara out of the backfield over the last couple of years, and that’s the biggest way the Pro Bowl back can hurt teams. In four games against the Saints over his first two years White has recorded no fewer than 11 tackles in any of those contests. White had 10 tackles in the previous game this year, but also had three big personal foul penalties that hurt the Bucs in a 36-27 loss. He needs to play more under control and make some splash plays like he did against the Saints in the playoffs last year when White recorded a late interception and had a key fumble recovery.

Tampa Bay CB Sean Murphy-Bunting vs. New Orleans WR Tre’Quan Smith

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: USA Today

The Saints are without top receiver Deonte Harris, who is serving a three-game suspension for a DUI arrest over the summer. Harris had three catches for 35 yards and a 22-yard end around in the first meeting this year, while Smith had three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown against nickel cornerback Ross Cockrell. Without Harris in the lineup, Smith, who played down the road at nearby UCF, will play a more prominent role in New Orleans’ passing game. He’s got 25 catches for 284 yards and a pair of TDs this season, including his one against the Bucs.

Murphy-Bunting didn’t play in the previous game against the Saints on Halloween due to his status on injured reserve. But the last time Murphy-Bunting played against the Saints he recorded a key interception in the first half from the slot defending Michael Thomas. That helped the Bucs beat the Saints in the playoffs last year. Murphy-Bunting has had an up-and-down season so far in his return from a dislocated elbow, but will need to play big on Sunday Night Football against Smith, or whoever lines up in the slot for New Orleans.

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett vs. Saints RT Ryan Ramczyk

Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett

Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Ramcyzk signed a contract extension with the Saints this summer, which makes him the highest paid right tackle at $19.2 million per year. He hasn’t had a great year, in part due to a knee injury that has lingered all season. Ramcyzk has surrendered three sacks, including one to defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the first game on Halloween. But the Pro Bowl right tackle did continue his mastery of Barrett, a player who has never beaten him for a sack.

Barrett really struggles against big right tackles, and Ramczyk is one of the bigger ones at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds. Barrett is coming on strong right now with a total of 3.5 sacks combined over the last three games, including 1.5 last week against mobile QB Josh Allen. He has a team-high nine sacks on the year and was criticized by head coach Bruce Arians for having a bad game against the Saints in Week 8. Barrett will be out for revenge on Sunday Night Football.

Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David vs. New Orleans QB Taysom Hill

Bucs LB Lavonte David and CB Jamel Dean

Bucs LB Lavonte David and CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: USA Today

Hill is more of a running  threat than he is as a pocket passer. He’s completed just 58.6 percent of his throws for 495 yards with only two touchdowns and five interceptions. But the 6-foot-2, 221-pound QB has rushed for 278 yards and a team-high five touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry in the process. After seeing Bills QB Josh Allen rush for 109 yards and a TD while averaging 9.1 yards per carry, it’s a safe bet that Sean Payton will deploy at least a dozen QB runs for Hill against Tampa Bay’s defense on Sunday night.

David has had a solid, but unspectaular season so far. The splash plays have been less frequent now that he’s turned 30, but all the Bucs need him to do on Sunday night is just make sure tackles against Hill – a physical QB that is adept at breaking tackles in the running game. In last week’s win over the Bills, Allen picked up 52 yards running to the left at David and the weakside of the Bucs defense, including a 23-yard gain and an 18-yard touchdown. David will have to be ready to face Hill attacking the weakside behind left tackle Terron Armstead. Also look for David to get a chance at a sack on one of Todd Bowles’ weakside blitzes against Hill.

FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots

• OLD MAN SHERMAN’S STILL GOT IT: Despite having an injury-riddled season that has seen veteran cornerback struggle with hamstring, calf and Achilles injuries, Richard Sherman snared his first interception as a Buccaneer on Sunday against the Bills. Fox NFL analyst Brian Baldinger gave Sherman his props on Twitter this week.

• BUCS DOMINATED THE AFC THIS YEAR: According to The Athletic’s Greg Auman, the Bucs finished their non-conference schedule undefeated against AFC teams this year. Tampa Bay was 4-0 against the AFC in 2021. Will the Bucs have a chance to make it 5-0 by returning to the Super Bowl in February?

• GUTEN TAG, BUCS FANS: The NFL announced international home marketing teams and Germany was selected for the Buccaneers. That’s not a bad choice, but given all of the Bucs fans from the U.K. that vacation in Florida, it seems like a bit of curious selection.

• BUCS-SAINTS PREVIEWS ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week. The Pewter Pregame show for the Bucs vs. Saints game starts at 7:30 p.m. ET prior to the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff with Pewter GameDay. The Pewter Postgame podcast follows later Sunday night. Then we’ll have Pewter Report Podcasts on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 pm EST previewing the Bucs vs. Panthers game next Sunday.

Jon Ledyard and Scott Reynolds celebrated a Victory Monday by discussing whether or not the Bucs were the best team in the NFC.

Ledyard and Reynolds preview the Bucs vs. Saints game on Wednesday’s podcast.

Ledyard, Reynolds, Kasey Hudson and J.C. Allen all state which Bucs players must step up against the Saints on Sunday Night Football during Thursday’s podcast.

celsiusWatch the Pewter Report Podcasts live on our PewterReportTV channel on and please subscribe (it’s free) and add your comments. All Pewter Report Podcasts are archived so you can watch the recorded episodes if you missed them live.

There is no better time to listen to or watch a new Pewter Report Podcast – energized by CELSIUS – than Friday afternoon on the way home from work. Or early Saturday morning during your workout or while running errands.

The popularity of the Pewter Report Podcast continues to grow. In addition to listening to the Pewter Report Podcasts on you can also subscribe to the free podcasts at PodBean by clicking here and on SoundCloud by clicking here. And of course the Pewter Report Podcast is also available on iTunes and YouTube. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode.

• BRADY IS THE LEADING MVP CANDIDATE: According to Pro Football Focus, Bucs QB Tom Brady is the favorite to win the NFL MVP award. Just give it to him – Brady’s earned it.

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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 Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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:
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1 month ago

Leonard Fournette is really the ultimate three down running back. Great at all three key jobs of a running back: blocking, rushing, and receiving. He is not the league’s best, necessarily, in any of those categories, but he does exactly what this pass first team needs him to do. He has been a great outlet for TB-12 when the WRs and TEs are covered, and he is superlative in getting those yards to the line to gain, as he did again in overtime last Sunday punching the ball over by a millimeter, keeping the drive alive just before TB-12 threw… Read more »

1 month ago

Fournette is a good back, who is getting better (due in large part to Brady)… The ONLY reason to spend anything substantial for him in free agency though, is if Brady doesn’t retire and insists on having him back. Otherwise, we have way too many other free agents who need to get paid first. And, yes, for the modern NFL running backs are a dime a dozen. Just find anyone SMART, with speed and good hands, and you can teach him anything he needs to know. (With Brady, we just don’t have time for the learning curve with another back…)

Reply to  JSW
1 month ago

So you’d say “no” to the guy who leads the entire team in yards gained? The only three down back we have on the roster? And who is second in touchdowns scored, just 1 TD behind Mike Evans? And who is our most reliable player on the offense in gaining third down conversions? And who is a proven leader in the locker room? And who always plays his best in the biggest and most important games? What team does NOT need that kind of player on their roster? Regardless of whether Brady retires or not, which seems unlikely given that… Read more »

Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

I don’t think anyone is saying NO. They’re just saying there’s a max to his value. I think there are FAR bigger priorities next year-Godwin, Jensen, Gronk, Carlton for sure. I think all four of those are higher priority. Brady’s made a career out of turning no name RBs into household names and as much as I think Lenny deserves a TON of credit for what he’s done and I believe he SHOULD get paid…I’m not going to cry if we stand firm on a $5m/year deal and he finds more $$ elsewhere and leaves. I DON’T think we need… Read more »

Reply to  Rob
1 month ago

I completely agree. And don’t get me wrong, I think Fournette is a terrific player. It’s just a matter of who is more difficult to replace. Godwin, Gronk, AB, Davis, Jensen and probably more guys would be more difficult to replace than a RB. Another reason I wouldn’t want to pay him is because we use him too much. I really haven’t understood why Bernard hasn’t played more. But since Fournette has played so much this year, his production is likely to go down next year. That’s life in the NFL for a RB. Sign him if he’s cheap, otherwise… Read more »

1 month ago

“the Bucs finished their non-conference schedule undefeated against AFC teams this year…” Uh, last I checked, the Jets are in the AFC. Don’t we play them in two weeks?

Reply to  JSW
1 month ago

It’s the Jets, that doesn’t really count as a game.

1 month ago

Ok, there’s much to be unpacked here. Wirfs is a beast! While Saints have/do match up a bit with the Bucs, at least in past games, the Bucs should dominate them in this game. The Saints r not abad team. But, they r a team in transition. Bucs r defending SuperBowl Champs who r defending their title. Bucs r clearly the more talented team. If Bucs r to make another historical run, then they MUST dispatch these type teams that remain on their schedule. Bucs should roll in New Orleans to continue the quest. Pray for health and little to… Read more »

1 month ago

Sorry, main reason I wanted to post this article was because of FOURnette. Of course we must resign him. He’s earned it. But it must be reasonable and beneficial to the Bucs financially. 5-6 mil seems appropriate to this fan. But only two year deal with third year option. Injury and lack of production due to nagging injuries to a RB can cut down his effectiveness and usefulness. 2-3 year max. FOURnette has really come on recently for the Bucs. Hope it continues.

1 month ago

we need a defensive tackle to replace Suh. Even if Suh comes back 1 more year we need his replacement. Forget about drafting running backs. we need defense. If we go all the way it will be the defense that does it. If we get to the Super Bowl (big if) its looking like the Chiefs again. We have to stop Kelce and Tyreek Hill again. Itd going to be last year 2.0 except in that LA dome which makes them a faster team.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
1 month ago

Scott The worst contracts in history were signed because someone said the words “what he means to the team”. Just go look it up Fournette has played in every game and is still 11th behind Mark Ingram, Austin Eckeler, Antonio Gibson. Also he’s only a few yards ahead of QB Lamar Jackson and somebody named Eli Mitchell. Can’t get all sentimental and use “what he means to the team” to determine value because that’s precisely why Gerald McCoy was let go, we have to look at what he’s worth on the open market. In McCoy’s case his value was not… Read more »

Reply to  Captain Sly
1 month ago

Agreed, and people also consistently forget you’re not paying for what the player did, you’re paying for what he will do in the future. It’s doubtful he will get better at age 27.

1 month ago

Just saw it stream that Sean Peyton has tested positive for Covid. He won’t be coaching this week. Not that this Bucs team needs another advantage, but we need to turn this game into a route.

The Freeman
The Freeman(@the-freeman)
1 month ago

goodbye Lenny if he want more than $6M/year, we have little cap space, Licht will have to restructure a big contract or cut one just to tag Carlton Davis. no way there is a RB worth a top 50 pick and probably only 2-3 worth a top 100 pick, but definitively some day 3 prospect worth a shot if you don’t reach for them… hopefully Licht have learned from previous mistakes (Rojo, Vaughn, McNichols) there is a defined market for RB (not including rookie contract)… an elite group of 8 guys paid $12-16M/year: McCaffrey, Kamara, Elliott, Cook, Henry, Chubb, Mixon,… Read more »

Reply to  The Freeman
1 month ago

Even with the elite group, Henry is probably the only guy worth paying that much $$. I hope Licht has learned his lesson.

1 month ago

Scott, why aren’t we focused on the Saints? Fab 1 was okay; Fab 2, 3, could have been addressed on Tuesday when the players are off. Fab 5 was so weak of any information that had anything to do with much of anything. Shouldn’t the Saints game be the main thought this week? What’s going on with little hype for the game. Come on, it’s the Saints!

1 month ago

I, for one, am not ready to write off Ke’Shawn Vaughn just yet. None of us fans really know if he can become the featured back until he gets to play. The team just isn’t going to take Fournette or RoJo out of the game unless victory is assured. By then, Gabbert will be taking the snaps and the opponent will be expecting running plays. Not exactly a valid test of #21’s potential. I’m sure the team has evaluated him, but I’d say the grade is “incomplete”.