TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reportedly set to release running back Leonard Fournette next month.
On March 15, which is when the new league year officially begins, the 28-year-old will be released from Tampa Bay, according to NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the expected move comes after Fournette asked for the Bucs to release him. The team then agreed and the running back described the situation as "no bad blood" between him and the organization.
His decision leaned heavily on Tom Brady's retirement, describing that he wants to play for a team that will continue, the newspaper reports.
“Winning is everything,” Fournette told the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s all. And in my last three years here, that’s all we’ve done. But since my guy (Brady) left, that why I came, so my time here was up.”
The release on March 15 would allow Tampa Bay to spread the cap hit on Fourenette's $2 million fully guaranteed left on his contract and another $2 million that would also become fully guaranteed on March 19, according to ESPN. The move is also a way to help the Bucs solve their issue of being projected to be $55 million over the salary cap.
Fournette, along with the other running backs on the team, logged the NFL's worst rushing attack in 2022 averaging just 76.94 rushing yards per game. Fournette had 668 yards on 189 carries with three touchdowns.
Despite the poor numbers in the run game, Tampa Bay General Manager Jason Licht said at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine's media availability that he is excited to see running backs, Rachaad White and Ke'Shawn Vaughn, make the jump to the next level this year.
"We feel like we do have a good, solid core group," Licht said. "Rachaad [White] is a good, young back that is just scratching the surface of what he can do.
"Ke’Shawn [Vaughn] – I don’t think he really has had a fair opportunity to show what he can do and what we know he can do from practice."
Fournette was instrumental in the team's postseason to their eventual Super Bowl LV title in the 2020 season. During that playoff run, "Playoff Lenny" recorded three rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown. The 28-year-old signed with the team early in the 2020 regular season as a free agent and was resigned by the Bucs again the following year.