James Conner To Replace Leonard Fournette?

February 8th, 2022

Back in 2019, Bucco Bruce Arians made a firm proclamation during a visit to the Ira Kaufman Podcast.

I don’t overpay for that position,” Arians said, when Joe pushed Arians on the subject of running backs.

Arians was talking about how he was good with his backfield of Peyton Barber and young Ronald Jones, along with Dare Ogunbowale and Andre Ellington.

“There’s not a David Johnson or a Todd Gurley. But you don’t need one,” Arians continued.

Joe replied, “We could buy one though, right, if we want to? If they’re on the market?”

Arians’ volume kicked up a notch. “I mean (sigh), I don’t overpay for that position. David Johnson came in as a rookie [in Arizona], lit it on fire. You just got to find the right guys to fit what you want to do.”

So here the Bucs sit with the free agency dinner bell ringing Monday, March 14, at noon. Running back Leonard “Playoff Lenny” Fournette needs a contract and he wants to be paid big-time, like every successful young first-round pick expects in his prime.

At 27 years old following two one-year contracts from Tampa Bay, Playoff Lenny is justified in demanding a fat deal.

Will Arians want to pay him, or will he look for a cheaper options? Yes, Joe expects Ronald Jones to move on in free agency.

If Playoff Lenny’s demands are too great, might the Bucs look to Arizona RB James Conner? Joe wouldn’t hesitate.

Conner had a strong year in a tough division and is used to sharing the load. The two-time Pro Bowler pounded in 15 touchdowns last season, plus three through the air, as the Cardinals started nine different offensive line combinations.

Unlike Fournette, Connor, 26, has never made big money through his five years in the league, and Joe suspects he would command significantly less than Playoff Lenny and be ok with sharing carries with Ke’Shawn Vaughn. (Joe presumes, a return of Giovani Bernard will happen). This season, Connor made the Pro Bowl splitting carries with speedy Chase Edmonds.

Joe doesn’t want to see Playoff Lenny leave (who would?), but Joe also doesn’t want to see Chris Godwin or a starting offensive lineman walk out the door in free agency.

Playoff Lenny is a priority at One Buc Palace, but Joe believes Arians and general manager Jason Licht will have a very firm contract line in the sand for him.

49 Responses to “James Conner To Replace Leonard Fournette?”

  1. mike Says:

    I love Lenny, but you I agree with BA… you can’t over pay and in our cap situation, you can’t pay a lot. Lenny will get a big pay day somewhere else and good for him! He deserves it!

  2. Ash Says:

    I wouldn’t mind that I think Lenny chases a big contract elsewhere it will probably be his last big pay day and I don’t see that in Tampa with Brady gone.

  3. Marine Buc Says:

    Conner only had a 3.7 yard average… Not great but not horrible.

    He also had 37 receptions for 375 yards – at least he can catch the ball.

    I still don’t think he is an upgrade over Fournette who had a 4.5 yard average and 69 catches for 454 yards.

  4. zzbucs Says:

    Love Lenny and I agree with BA, but the thing is, I love BA too but I don´t trust what he says, One day he says White next one is Purple…..Tons of examples, but the scenario you just describe Joe, I take it in a blink of an eye…..

  5. Jimmy Says:

    Dare Ogunbowale


  6. German Buc Says:

    We’re not talking upgrade, Marine, we’re talking bargain replacement with little drop off.

  7. zzbucs Says:

    @ Jimmy

    You really made me laugh!!!!!

  8. Markus Says:

    As usual, Joe’s articles beat out the entire local spots media with great sleuthing finds like this. Joe, you don’t hear it enough, but we appreciate your finds/takes/research. The other guys don’t do it like you. Keep kicking a$$!

  9. Marine Buc Says:

    @ German

    Bargain? His current market value is $5.9 million.

    Fournette’s current market value is $6.1.

    How is this a “bargain”?

  10. jugheadfla Says:

    Honestly, I like what I saw from Vaughn when he actually got a chance last year. If he can learn to pick up the blocks a bit better in pass pro, I think he could be the the next David Johnson, before he got hurt.

  11. Craig Says:

    There are a lot of better backs than Fournette out there. He isn’t shifty enough.

    Even better would be to draft another halfback and run his legs off.

    Conner would not be cheap and we do not need to give up draft spots eight now, either.

  12. Miller5252 Says:

    If we can’t keep Lenny I would see if Vaughn was ready to take the load and get another to help him out. Vaughn had some good showings there down the stretch, and I’d be curious if he could keep it up. Want Lenny to stay if possible, but not over losing multiple other free agents.

  13. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Paying too much doesn’t just go for Lenny…..

    We shouldn’t pay too much for any FA….especially ours….

    I agree with BA on the RB position….we have Vaughn & we can draft a RB….but we have other needs, especially if we don’t sign Godwin or Gronk or Davis.

    We may need a CB, TE, RB, DT, OLB in this year’s draft.

    Losing Lenny to a big contract elsewhere should get us a comp pick…..Same with Rojo, Jensen, Suh, Davis, JPP, Gholston, Whitehead, Godwin.

    We’ve got some really good players…would be nice to get at least something for them.

  14. Joe Says:


    Thanks for the kind words! Much appreciated.

  15. PassingThru Says:

    Let me preface this comment to say that I like Fournette. From a guy with a reputation as a malcontent, borderline draft bust, and a limited skill set, he delivered big time, in the games that count. He was never a natural pass-catcher, but he worked at it to the point where he was adequate, and in pass-protection, he was more than adequate as a blocker. That huge TD pass to Miller during the NFC Championship game wouldn’t have been possible without a solid block by Fournette. Gronk screwed up on the play, but Fournette delivered. He’s self-made as an NFL starter, my hat off to the man.

    Fournette isn’t really that good. What he was great at in college just didn’t really translate well into the pro game. He was a bulldozer in college, but that raw strength wasn’t as big an edge at the NFL level. His vision was slightly below average for a feature back, and while his balance was decent, he was really only dangerous at bouncing off tackles at the second level.

    The truth is, many starter-quality backs are somewhat interchangeable at the NFL level. Most of their opportunities are created for them by the offensive line. The great English philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said that the life of RBs was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Well, he should have said it, right?

    Given the short half-life and interchangeability, Arians is right: You don’t want to overpay for RBs. Keep the contracts short in duration, and not pricey.

  16. Thisisouryear!!! Says:

    I love how Lenny always pushes forward for an extra 2 yards while being tackled. If he’ll sign for a reasonable price, I hope he stays. He seems to be a great locker room addition too.

  17. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    Breece Hall Iowa State in 3rd round-better than any of the aforementioned-Move on to who the next QB is going to be as that is where you will determine if you are going to the Super Bowl or not. Let Russ cook!!!!!!!!!!

  18. HC Grover Says:

    A Bizcuit shortage will soon arise at RayJay.

  19. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    Just released interview with Jim Gray-Brady states never say never-who knows what I will feel like in 6 months-TB12 may not be quite done yet-hmmmmm.

  20. Austin Says:

    I dont think we can afford either Connor or Lenny TBH

  21. TiredBucsFan Says:

    No! Keep Lenny

  22. mike Says:

    draft the kid out of florida in the 3rd round and he and vaughn can do the job. Rojo can stay or go… he can probably be kept cheap

  23. Rick Says:

    People need to pay attention to our salary cap position in the coming years. Unless we can get a QB situation we can win with, we should be careful about overpaying for older players and build for the future. You draft difference making QB’s by being a bad team. It’s that simple. We should be focused on getting something in return for the players who leave, whether through compensatory draft picks or using the franchise tag to get assets in return for players we can’t afford to keep long term.

  24. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Is Jones no longer on the team?

  25. Robert Says:

    rebuild mode. go for the younger, cheaper guy with a head on his shoulders.

    without TB the head cases will blow up. Not saying that is Lenny, as I like him and wish him a big contract.

  26. Pewter Power Says:

    Yes arians said that in 2019 but also said in 2022 he wanted him back. If they don’t have a high priced quarterback they can pay Lenny. If you are going with an unknown commodity at quarterback or at least in this offense you don’t get rid a productive running back especially knowing you will need him

    Giovanni Bernard came in as a free agent and did nothing, don’t change running back and quarterback unless his contract demands are Winston like unreasonable

  27. Marine Buc Says:

    @ Bonzai

    Jones is a free agent. As is Fournette and Bernard.

    Vaughn and K. Barner are the only RBs currently under contract.

  28. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I’d keep Rojo if he’s cheap enough….but some team may overpay for him….he’s very young….pretty fresh legs and he can definitely run.

  29. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Looking at the UFA list, I who I would like to come back:

    In order of Importance
    Christ Godwin WR
    Ryan Jensen C
    Alex Cappa G
    Jordan Whitehead S
    Carlton Davis CB
    Ronald Jones RB
    Ndamukong Suh DT
    Jason Pierre-Paul DE
    Kevin Minter ILB
    William Gholston DE

  30. Robert Says:

    Rojo and Vaughn….keep. cheaper and I doubt lenny’s catching ability will be a big need with a rook at QB. more like the straight line runner Rojo is.

    If we were to keep Lenny he would need to be more of a bulldozer like Allstot, which he is not. They’ll see those off tackle runs a mile away w/o the threat of TB burning them.

  31. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    @Marine Buc


  32. adam from ny Says:

    due to all the circumstances that have now taken place, i too am leaning towards a resigning of rojo, if lenny isn’t resigned…

    rojo didn’t work well with tom out of the backfield…but tom is gone…

    so hello rojo…

    whoda thunk…he seemed so gone and now he’s a viable option again…

    the ever changing nfl landscape on a day to day basis

  33. adam from ny Says:

    watch, if rojo leaves, he’ll run for 1.300 on some unexpected team…

    tom needed really specific sh!t…

    if gio is resigned, with rojo and vaughn, we’re good – gio will become a real 3rd down type back here – tom needed it just right…another qb won’t need tom’s set up…

    rojo to start, vaughn in relief, gio 3rd down, and bring in another dude

  34. Marine Buc Says:

    @ Bonzai

    Your welcome.

    I like your FA list. I would add B. Gabbert to it though…

  35. Deemo Says:

    Don’t want Conner…Guy is always hurt. Loved him at Pitt and the Steelers and had a great year with the Cards but he is injury prone. Don’t want to see Playoff Lenny leave either but if he wants 2 much money there’s the door. Plenty of young college kids can take over that role. I agree with BA, don’t overspend on a running back!

  36. Ash Says:

    They are not signing rojo they both seem to be done with each other after they started Fournette over him and never looked back.

  37. Duane Says:

    It has been quite some time since this team had a feature back, much less one that balls out in the Playoffs like Lenny. I dont trust Arians with the run game because it has been a virtual no show since Bruce has been here, and dont forget Lenny was his second choice. This offense needs to learn to sit on the ball and run more clock. No, dont pay him $12.5 like the other top backs, but I think he is just as valuable as any DL that gets less than 8 sacks. You arent going to be able to plug and play players on the defensive side because it is all smoke and mirrors, and Bowles is going to have to find a way to get pressure on the qb with #45, which is a big problem, as he is a much better player when running towards the line of scrimmage.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    I’ll be shocked if Rojo returns. The coaching staff doesn’t trust him as evidenced by his playing time and penchant for preferring to run out of bounds than lean into someone for a first down. He can run, let him run track.

  39. THOMAS PFALZ Says:

    I just don’t see Vaughn or Rojo as starting caliber RB’s. We really need Lenny & Gio back. I’d definitely like Lenny over Cappa. I wouldn’t overpay Godwin or Davis. Both seem to be somewhat injury prone.

  40. allbuccedup Says:

    BA is going to kick the tires on ole pal david johnson hes good receiving out of the backfield split time with Vaughn. Probably get him for 1.5 or less.


    O line

  42. DrunkInYbor Says:

    No thanks.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    The #1 priority should be keeping the team together. They are so talented and play so well together that it would be a shame to see any of them go anywhere else. There has to be a way to keep the team together

  44. steele Says:

    I like James Conner a lot. Conner+ Vaughn+a new change of pace (James White?)ain’t bad.

  45. Izod Says:

    Great RBs are bountiful in this league. You don’t lose as much between an elite RB and a very good RB in the NFL as you do, say an elite QB vs a very good QB.

    That said, I don’t think Fournette is an “elite” RB in this league. He is just too hesitant and happy-footed at the LOS to really ever have a chance at the elite level.

  46. HeyItsAdam Says:

    “…he was good with his backfield of Peyton Barber and young Ronald Jones, along with Dare Ogunbowale and Andre Ellington.”

    UGH… I remember Peyton Barber got me NEGATIVE fantasy points one week.

  47. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    We really haven’t had a great running game since the 90s.

    I would love to get a Lorenze Neal type of run blocker. That guy was a beast.

  48. You gotta be crazy Says:

    Brady is gone…TB back to trash. Facts!

  49. Bucs Guy Says:

    BA said he wants Fournette. So his job is done. Now it’s up to JL to determine how much he can afford to pay him and work out a deal with his agent.

    It’s not BA’s decision on how much to pay — he’s the coach not the GM.