The Buccaneers front office was able to accomplish the nearly impossible by bringing back a majority of their free agents and all of their starters from the Super Bowl, including running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette or “Lombardi Lenny” as he now is affectionately known, inked a one-year deal for $3.25 million after testing free agency.

If he has a 1,000-yard season in 2021, Fournette likely will cash in on a long-term deal for more money from a team – but likely not the Buccaneers. With the salary cap jumping by as much as $20 million in 2022 there will be a lot more money for teams to spend on a somewhat luxury position like running back.

But can Fournette cash in? Can Fournette even beat out Ronald Jones II in 2022 to get close to that benchmark 1,000-yard season that define top-tier running backs?

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Jones isn’t going to give up the job easily, and he is in a contract year also. Reaching 1,000 yards himself would be a big boost as he heads to free agency in 2022.

With all the attention that Fournette has received this offseason, Jones likely feels like the forgotten man.

“Hey guys, over here! I’m the dude who ran for 978 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns in the regular season. You know, the dude who had a 98-yard TD run against Carolina and started 14 games last year.”

Jones isn’t going to just hand the job to him regardless of the way Fournette played down the stretch where he ran for 300 yards and three scores in the playoffs and Super Bowl LV. It was an impressive postseason without question, and the Buccaneers needed every yard Fournette gave them down the stretch.

But during the regular season Fournette was average at best. He did have one 100-yard game, a 103-yard effort in Week 2 against the Panthers but gained 46 yards on a single carry. And in the 13 regular season games he played in, Fournette averaged more than 4.0 yards a carry in just twice.

Who can forget that stellar, seven-carry, 15-yard effort against the Broncos? Someone cue up the ESPN highlights of that amazing five-carry, five-yard season opener against the Saints last year. And how about his healthy scratch in Week 14 against the Vikings? Fournette was almost cut by the team late in the season due to his attitude.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and NFL ref

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and NFL ref – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“I said, ‘This is your situation. It can change at the drop of a hat,'” Arians told  Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times of his meeting with Fournette. “But this is your situation. Either embrace it, or you say, ‘Cut me.’ I said, ‘What do you want? Because this is a very special team that you’re part of. I think you’ve got a feeling of that. Just see if you can hang in there to see what happens.’ And he did, and I’m really proud of him.”

Fortunately for the Buccaneers and for Fournette, the disgruntled running back chose to stick around. And it worked out well for everyone involved. Jones wound up missing games due to being placed on the COVID-19 list and also suffering a broken finger and a leg injury in January. Fournette took full advantage of his opportunity.

Hats off to Fournette for showing growth and maturity. A younger Fournette probably storms out of Arians’ office and never becomes Lombardi Lenny.

Now that he is back he knows it will be a battle for the starting job.

“Going into camp, we’ll have to compete. Nothing’s promised to anyone,” Fournette said. “I’ve been here before and I understand about competing. It’s just like college, you know what I mean? Just right now, we’re just training, getting our bodies right. Coming in, we’re going to have to start all over and compete for that starting job. It’s going to be a great one.”

Two running backs in their prime.

A pair of running backs heading into free agency in 2022.

Two running backs trying to cash in.

Let the battle begin.

Cannon Blast

Table of Contents

• Last week Jon Ledyard got into a text conversation about the best football announcers on television. We started out discussing FOX Sports college football announcer Gus Johnson. Personally I can’t stand him. He tries to make a middle of the second quarter, four-yard Michigan versus Northwestern pass completion sound like Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship game.

Gross. Take it down a notch, Gus.

That led us to discussing the greats of my youth. Now I’m 20 years older than Ledyard, so he didn’t get to hear all the greats of the 1970s and ’80s like myself and fellow old-timer Scott Reynolds were able to hear in their prime.

NBC had Dick Enberg, Don Criqui, Charlie Jones and others. CBS had Lindsey Nelson, Hank Stram, Vin Scully (yes, he also did football) and even Vern Lundquist. Then CBS later on the magical duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden. And who can forget ABC, home of Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford Don Meredith followed by the great Al Michaels?

Legends.

NBC's Al Michaels

NBC’s Al Michaels – Photo by: USA Today

In today’s football world, I still think Michaels is one of the best. I don’t hate Joe Buck and Troy Aikman like so many others do. And while I don’t care too much for Jim Nantz, having the pleasure of listening to the best color analyst in the business, Tony Romo, makes the voice of Nantz bearable.

Did I mention how much I miss Keith Jackson on ABC’s Saturday college football broadcasts?

Whoaaaa Nelly!

• Congratulations to the Panthers for trading for former Jets QB Kevin Arnold. He was one of my favorite television characters ever. Loved him on The Wonder Years.

Wait, what’s that you say? It was Sam Darnold? Not Kevin Arnold who Carolina trade for? Oops, my bad.

In all honesty the Panthers might have been better off trading for Kevin Arnold. Darnold hasn’t shown me very much. Of course Adam Gase can ruin a quarterback about as well as anyone in NFL history. And just think, the Jets fired Todd Bowles for Gase.

Last Laugh

Read Leonard Founette’s comment on Lavonte David’s Instagram post.

“Small ass shorts.”

Fournette is a funny dude lol.

They are kind of short Lavonte.

Fournette-David-Jones

Courtesy of Lavonte David’s Instagram

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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Iowabucfan
2 months ago

I loved it when Meredith would mess with Cosell. It was hilarious.

Mike Pengelly
2 months ago

Don’t count out Vaughan in your competition. He might just blossom into a keeper in his second season, given he had little opportunity to really show his stuff as a rookie in a no training camp, no pre-season year. And he’s still going to be around in 2022 which the other two are unlikely to be. Hoping the powers that be draft one of the top 4 RBs this year.

Mike Pengelly
2 months ago

Listening to Tony Romo predict the play that is about to unfold is such a treat. he is the best color guy IMO.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Mike Pengelly
2 months ago

Yes … though “color guy” is not the right term for him, because what he brings goes far beyond “color”. He is clearly the best offensive analyst to ever call a NFL game.

Runole
Reply to  Mike Pengelly
2 months ago

My favorite color guy!

DT25
2 months ago

I mean, RoJo shouldn’t be the forgotten man. Even without the 98 yard run (which we can’t actually take out unless we remove every other RBs longest run), he would’ve STILL been top 10 in the league in YPC. His 5.1 YPC (with a min of 150 carries) ultimately was top 5, behind only Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Miles Sanders, and Aaron Jones. All of whom many consider top RBs in the NFL…and also weren’t exactly the prominent “pass catching” backs for their teams and regularly ceded 3rd down duties to other RBs. So…no, not only should he not be… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by DT25
AlstottSmash
2 months ago

Playoff Lenny looked like an entirely different player than the guy who couldn’t hit a 4 foot hole decisively to save his life in the first half of the season…still I think RoJo is and will prove to be the better back, so long as he’s healthy. Gus Johnson is total trash, as a (radio) broadcaster myself he grind my gears in the worst way possible – just as you described – he tries to amplify the action to make it about himself; it’s painful. Nobody can touch Romo right now, however I’m not sure there’s an unmissable lead pbp… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  AlstottSmash
2 months ago

In the first half of the season Fournette was effectively a “walk-on” … zero familiarity with the playbook or with his quarterback, linemen and fellow offensive skill players .. while RoJo has been with mostly the same players (but the quarterback) and coaches for several years. Look, Tom Brady wasn’t the same quarterback either, in the first half of the season, that he was in the second half and the playoffs. It took him until after the bye week to get his game in sync with his coaches and fellow players, having been denied a normal pre-season camp by COVID… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Naplesfan
Dave
Reply to  Naplesfan
2 months ago

He’s a RB. Enough with the familiarity crap. RB is by far the easiest position, aside from kicker, to pick up immediately. Which is why rookie RB’s turn out to be great all the time. The dude just has to receive the handoff, and hit the open hole. Or catch the pass, and run. Stop making excuses for him. Being on a new team has nothing to do with why he stunk. His regular season stats were remarkably in line with his career stats, across the board As far as Brady is concerned, statistically, he was better in the first… Read more »

surferdudes
2 months ago

Najee Harris will be our starting back, ha ha.

chefboho
2 months ago

Give me Keith Jackson for college and Al Michaels for football all day. Their voices are just etched into my memory forever when I think of those two sports. I am a fan of Tony Romo for sure. The dude helps you understand football better and he’ll he basically predicts the plays at times.
As far as the Lavigne post, I love Larry Footes comment below telling David he’s getting fat. 😂 Family love all around on this squad. Can’t wait for the draft!!

Buc76
2 months ago

Curt Gowdy called multiple Super Bowls for NBC. He deserves a mention. NFL Today crew. Musberger, Irv Cross Phyllis George, not announcers but part of the lexicon. Before Madden and Summerall there was Summerall and Tom Brookshier. Jack Buck and Hank Stram called Monday Night Football on the radio. Those were great days!

Buc76
Reply to  Buc76
2 months ago

and I always remember watching the Orange Bowl on New Years night with Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy

drdneast
2 months ago

Merlin Olson and Dick Enberg made a great team. Always fun to listen to Cosell, Giff and Merredith. I like Romo but don’t think I could take him without Nantz. Joe Buck is just fine as is Al Michaels. Keith Jackson was perfect for college football as was Brett Musburger. Poor Brett, having the gall and toxic masculinity to call a gorgeous college girl gorgeous..

drdneast
2 months ago

BA is well known to shooting players straight and it sounds like he did exactly that with Lenny. If Lenny plays with the heart and determination he did in the playoffs he will be a hard man to beat out and a bargain at his current salary but RoJo has improved his game every season since he got here. I expect nothing less from him in his contract year. If they both stay healthy, the Bucs are in fine shape this year in the RB position

Horse
2 months ago

I would like to think at RB it is a rotational position because none are that good or bad as to the Buccaneer Backs.

plopes808
2 months ago

I don’t believe either of them will be forgotten. The days of the 3 down back carrying the load are gone. The 2 headed monster we have will pay dividends whether it be during an injury or just keeping each other fresh.
I hope to see more from Vaughn this year as well, after a full camp and preseason

ScottC543
2 months ago

Forgotten? After the season Rojo will have this year he won’t be forgotten any more. Like the dr says, Rojo has improved every year. If he stays healthy, look out. He’s going off.

scubog
2 months ago

I have listened to far too many broadcasters to choose an all time favorite. I did enjoy Howard Cosell until he disrespected the accomplishment of the 1979 “Worst to First” team when he said, “If the Sea Hawks were in the NFC Central they would have won that Division.”

Currently, I like the insight of Tony Romo and I just can’t stand Troy Aikman, especially when he’s doing yet another Cowboys game.

The Wall
2 months ago

Great sense of humor Mark- pretty entertaining yourself.

Naplesfan
2 months ago

Fournette is the better all around running back, but the thing is, you can’t just have a single “featured back”. Running backs get injured, and the more you run them the more likely they are to get injured. Ideally a quality running back will get 15-20 carries a game, plus a decent number of pass targets too (that’s where Fournette is clearly way better than RoJo). Teams that try to feed their featured backs 25, 30 or more times a game are just asking for the inevitable injury. Plus there is value to having two backs with different running styles… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  Naplesfan
2 months ago

He may be the better pass catcher(still is below average by NFL standards), but Rojo is clearly the much better runner. So they’re even there. Now it comes down to blocking. I’ll take Rojo over LF there. So, sure seems to me like Rojo is the better overall RB

Last edited 2 months ago by Dave
Runole
2 months ago

Ray Scott was the best Play by play. Gene Deckerhoff goes a real good job.

Runole
Reply to  Runole
2 months ago

Does a real good job

Dman
2 months ago

I was excited when we originally signed Fournette, but not so much after watching him drop at first contact. Good playoff run obviously but I think RoJo is the better runner. Between the two of them I didn’t really see much difference in receiving ability.

Dave
Reply to  Dman
2 months ago

Agreed. How a couple decent playoff games makes people forget that LF was a healthy scratch in week 14. BA seriously played McCoy and Vaughn over LF in week 14( who both had the same “no familiarity or grasp of the offense” as LF did). And the only way he was ever seeing the field again in a Buc uniform, was If there was an injury to Rojo(which ended up happening). And that’s only because LF was the only other RB on the roster that the coaching staff trusted to give double digit carries to. He was much closer to… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Dave
Randall P. MacMurphy
2 months ago

To the point about Jones being forgotten or not — ever hear of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart? With the Bucs OL, both Rojo and Lenny can get 1000 yards and still have enough for Vaughn to have a few hundred. It’s how good the Bucs OL is.