Will Leonard Fournette Feel The Bucs’ Salary Cap Squeeze?

February 27th, 2023

Too expensive?

All good things come to an end. And one very well-respected NFL columnist believes that ending could be coming sooner than later for Playoff Lenny.

The Bucs, you may have heard, have an overdrawn checking account (salary cap). And in a couple of weeks a mortgage and a car payment are due. Unless the Bucs want to start bouncing checks and incurring mega fees as a result, the Bucs must tighten the budget belt.

Looking at the Bucs’ roster and contracts, Dan Pompei of The Athletic believes Playoff Lenny’s salary is a little too bloated. Therefore he’s a target to get released.

2023 cap hit: $8.47 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $3.47 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $5 million

Fournette’s contract has him as the 10th-highest-paid running back in the NFL next season. His 2022 production was far from top 10 — he ranked 40th in the league in rushing yards. Some of that was out of his control, but the Bucs have a new offensive coordinator and probably want to give more playing time to 2022 third-round pick Rachaad White, who took some of Fournette’s play time in the second half of the season. If the Bucs are rebuilding — and it sure looks that way — they are likely to want to go young at running back.

As much as Joe likes Playoff Lenny, here is the ugly truth: Playoff Lenny was the RB1a on the worst running team in the NFL. That’s not job security.

It would be interesting to see how Playoff Lenny does with an offensive coordinator (Dave Canales) who should know how to cobble together a rushing attack.

A couple of positives: Playoff Lenny does not fumble. And we all know from Canales’ words last week that he views fumbles worse than Joe views warm beer.

Also, Playoff Lenny is one of the better pass-catching backs out there. He was fifth in the NFL in yards after catch. Not just running backs, but all players. That’s A.J. Brown and Justin Jefferson territory.

Playoff Lenny has value. But at what cost? Joe hopes he’s willing to rework his contract.

35 Responses to “Will Leonard Fournette Feel The Bucs’ Salary Cap Squeeze?”

  1. Gofortheface30 Says:

    Literally zero reason to keep a plodding, sulking 3rd stringer with a bloated contract if Tampa Drafts that super stud out of Texas. Bucs need to get younger, quicker, faster. And you better believe he will sour in a hurry on a bad team with no playing time, someone like Kyle Trask at quarterback. You can’t half ass on this new identity direction the team clearly wants to go

  2. Marine Buc Says:

    Before the Bucs cut D. Smith, Brate, Fournette and Succop they should all be asked to take a pay cut and rework their contracts if they want to stay.

    There is no way Fournette is worth $8.5M in 2023… If he was smart he would take the reduced salary it’s not like he is a hot commodity in the NFL.

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    If we learned anything from last year, it should be that LACK OF DEPTH is extremely harmful. White’s an OK running back, but let’s stop pretending like he’s the 2nd coming of Barry Sanders. He’s not.

    Fournette averaged 3.5 YPC last season, while White averaged 3.7 YPC. But they got their yards very differently. Lenny breaks relatively few big runs, thus what you see is what you get (most of his rushes will be in the 2-5 yards range). Rachaad is quite a bit more explosive, and thus he’ll break some big ones (which pumps up his average), but he has a LOT of 0-2 yard rushes also. And like you said Joe, Lenny doesn’t fumble (Rachaad had 3 fumbles last year).

    Beyond that though, they’re both superb pass catchers. Lenny caught 88.0% of the pass thrown to him; that’s incredible. But what’s more incredible IMO is that his Average Yards Before Catch per Reception was MINUS 0.5 yards (looks to me like much if not most of his catches were with him as the last look). And yet, Lenny had an Average Yards After Catch per Reception of 7.7 yards. THAT’S impressive. White’s numbers were somewhat lower, but still very impressive also.

    So yes, Lenny makes a lot of money for ‘doing what he do’. He had options last year, but chose to come back to the Bucs (and Tom Brady). His rushing numbers last year weren’t even close to what he did in 2021 (4.5 YPC) but I do think a large part of that was due to our OLine issues. Agreed that $3.5 mil CAP savings is significant, but replacing Lenny with a comparable RB to complement White won’t be cheap. Be careful what you wish for?


    They should try & keep Lenny at a lower price & cut Vaughn.

  5. Beej Says:

    If he stays, most of his salary gets converted to incentives

  6. Who Says Says Can't Say Says:

    YAC sure but how many times did he get thrown the ball as the checkdown/fear play and pad his YAC stat that way… I don’t see that stat alone as relevant about whether to keep him.

  7. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Cut him back or cut him

  8. Mike C Says:

    Keep Lenny, guys like him, Winfield, Jensen, LVD (Hopefully) are guys that stir the pot. The Bucs only shot at having a successful season next year is getting as many driven or hungry players on your roster. Nail the Draft, STAY HEALTHY, and see if you can build some confidence for what will be a much younger roster.

  9. miken Says:

    what if he is cut after june 1?

  10. Rob Hamada Says:

    I agree with Marine Buc. I’m sure the Buc will offer Lenny, Smith and Brate an opportunity to take a pay cut to remain with the team. Lenny won’t get much more than 2-3 million on the market. Smith won’t get much more than 4-5 million on the market. Brate won’t get more than league minimum to $2 million on the market. Succup can be cut outright. I would also entertain trading each player for picks. I don’t think we’d get much more than a 6th rounder for Lenny and Smith.

  11. Brandon Says:

    5th in yards after the catch. Misleading stat. Literally every pass he caught was a dump off at or near the line of scrimmage when the coverage was away from the completion. Lenny is too slow and lacks the agility to run actual patterns. Decent hands, good blocker, way below average as a runner. He never should have been brought back. Eight million dollar mistake.

  12. Doughboy Says:

    Look we’re playing an extra game a year! There should be bigger contracts compared to previous years with 16 games.

  13. Duane Says:

    Leading offensive player in yards gained last season … also first place in TDs scored and first downs gained. And because what exactly makes him so expensive, given his small contract cost compared to either of our starting wide receivers whom he outgained and out TDd?

  14. Duane Says:

    Brandon – what is your issue with successful dump off passes? You’d rather fail to make a first down than to suffer the indignity of a successful dump off pass? Wow, that’s pretty “special”.

    Running backs are supposed to catch short yardage passes – they’re not built as wide receivers. Any more than tight ends are built like wide receivers.

    What we do know is that Lenny Fournette led the entire team in yards gained, TDs scored, and first downs gained. Facts.

  15. Power of Pewter Says:

    Lack of depth only hurts you if you have SuperBowl contending plans. Bucs, quite frankly, do not. Totally makes sense to cut highly-paid players who are back-ups or not performing up to par. Clear cap space so the team can use the money to retain the young players who will be the stars in a future SuperBowl run.

  16. Proudbucsfan Says:

    I say we trade him, I think the best we get is a 3rd rounder. If he restructures and we keep him I believe he will have a better season with competition in camp.

  17. Jonny Says:

    Lenny isn’t a good enough RB to provide upside for us even at a vet minimum salary. We paid him for his familiarity and camaraderie with Brady. All of that is moot now.

  18. sasquatch Says:

    cut him

  19. Beej Says:

    To be fair to Lenny, we threw to him so many times because our line couldn’t open a hole. Half of Brady’s passes were basically running plays

  20. pepsi Says:

    Lenny sucks

  21. Nicholas Carlson Says:

    Cut him!

  22. Browsing from DC Says:

    Judging Lenny’s value by last season’s output is ridiculous. The o-line sucked, the run scheme/design sucked, etc, etc. You can have Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith run up the gut and hit a wall of defenders and they would have crap stats too.

    Like Joe said, ball security, receiving ability and YAC is worth the price to keep him if they get better personnel or design run plays better or both. If Lenny gets an opening and gets hit after a yard gain, he’ll muscle-out 3 more at least. It’s like blaming a quarterback when a receiver drops the ball.

  23. Joe Swanson Says:

    Lennys not going to take a pay cut he probably wants to be traded to a contender hes probably only got a couple of years left anyway

  24. gotbbucs Says:

    Fournette offers zero upside. His best football was played at LSU. Since then the goal has been to stay healthy enough to continue to sign contracts. He offers nothing in the stretch zone scheme that Canales will install. $8.5 million for a running back that can’t break a run beyond 15 yards is ridiculous.
    I would be extremely surprised if Fournette could fetch more than $3-4 million on the open market, and that would be being very generous.

  25. Infomeplease Says:

    Let’s not forget that Lenny was playing hurt for almost the entire season! I hope he stays!

  26. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Defense Rules Says:
    February 27th, 2023 at 9:04 am

    Nailed it.

  27. sasquatch Says:

    Lenny isn’t special and isn’t worth the money he’s making. Ra White is a more explosive player and younger. We should also draft a RB or two.

  28. Mike Johnson Says:

    Man..I really like Playoff Lenny. But we need to remember, the days of allegiance and loyalty have long gone. I think Lenny will be playing elsewhere next season.

  29. Ed Says:

    Bucs have no choice with the sunsetting vets who are over the hill. They will be released with little to no interest. Fournette and Brate put up nothing on film last year that other teams can’t get with 5th and 6th round picks.

    Because Left tackle is so important some team will pick up Donovan Smith as a backup but he’ll have to take a contract for half the money Bucs paying him.

    WR is a real issue as the Bucs have the highest paid WR group. Godwin, Evans and Gage all have to sign contract extensions to lower their cap value or else one of them is going to have to be traded or cut (not Mike Or Chris but certainly Russell Gage if he can’t restructure)

  30. HC Grover Says:

    Out..get him out.

  31. gotbbucs Says:


    They can easily sign three new running backs for the $8.5 million that Fournette is set to make.
    Fournette won’t be starting and $8.5 sitting on the bench isn’t going to happen.
    This is a pointless discussion. He’s a dead man walking.

  32. Yucs2Bucs Says:

    He better !!!! I wish they would have kept RoJo and IMO gave up on him way too soon and Lenny was TB12s boy, but he can’t stay bin shape and might be a solid catcher in the backfield not for that money !!! Bring RoJo back and let White continue to become a solid back

  33. David Says:


  34. David Says:


    Get out of here with Rojo… He is horrendous. He’s a good running back who can’t block or catch. And he has a fragile ego. No, thank you.
    R White is going to be the man & they’ll draft another one.
    Lenny needs to go as well, simply for salary cap reasons.

  35. Esteban85 Says:

    After the abysmal rushing attack we suffered through Lenny has a lot to prove and should come to the table to rework that contract.