Where Could Playoff Lenny Land?
By Jared Clifton
Playoff Lenny got his fresh start in Tampa Bay, after a somewhat surprising late offseason release from the Jaguars. Once again, he gets an opportunity to choose his next adventure, as he enters free agency in a deep free agent running back class. Conventional wisdom has him running it back with the Bucs for 2021, but if the money isn’t right on what should have been his payday deal, then there are several other teams where his brand of play fits in. Let’s take a look.
New York Giants
With the NFL blending gracefully to a two RB system, it makes sense for Dave Gettleman to pony up for a back that will allow their superstar RB, Saquon Barkley, to be used more efficiently. Something resembling the tandem that New Orleans uses with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, but with backs that can play somewhat interchangeable roles.
With Barkley coming off a severe injury, Fournette would be an automatic upgrade to Wayne Gallman, to ease him back into a majority load. While Fournette isn’t as dynamic as Barkley at full strength, he is a reasonable facsimile to the type of back that Barkley is and Jason Garrett can deploy a full playbook that benefits the offense in its’ entirety.
Gallman wasn’t a slouch when needed last season, but his slight build and middling speed limit his ability to mitigate the drop-off when Barkley isn’t on the field. It makes much more sense for the Giants to let Gallman, Devonta Freeman, and Dion Lewis walk this offseason and bring in a back that can lead, if called upon, as a high-quality insurance policy.
When your franchise QB accounts for 27% of your rushing yards and you’re not the Baltimore Ravens, then it’s time to invest in an RB that can reliably shoulder the load. While Devin Singletary and Zach Moss were both serviceable in their thunder and lightning roles, the lack of consistency in the overall running game could end up being taxing on a QB that had to throw the ball over 100 times more from 2019 to 2020.
Much like the Bucs when Fournette joined them this past season, the Bills are ready to win now and although Fournette likely has less reason to ring chase after helping the Bucs win one this year, he may want to land in a spot where another Lombardi is well within grasp.
Fournette holds an all-purpose profile and giving him that type of role would allow Devin Singletary to encompass a more suitable satellite back role, to maximize his strengths. Moss would slot well into a short-yardage and breather back, as he lacks the breakaway skills to become a legitimate workhorse. The Bills holes remain in their defensive front seven, so filling this RB need via a high octane option in Fournette, would allow them to spend the draft capital to fill those holes.
Miami put together a surprisingly quick turnaround from their dismal 2019 campaign and did so with a collection of JAGs at the RB position. Both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed played well when forced into action, but the need for a premier RB should be high on the list of offseason priorities for the Brain Flores-led Dolphins. They figure to be in on other notable free agents, such as Aaron Jones and Chris Carson, but Fournette may make more fiscal sense as they continue to utilize their good cap standing to finish off the rebuild.
Gaskin and Ahmed remain important pieces for an offense that needs playmakers, but they aren’t well suited to be the playmaker. Fournette has shown, as early as 2019, that that is exactly who he can be. His 1674 total yards in 2019, for a poor Jaguars team, are more than the career totals for the top backs in Miami last year, so adding the dynamic experience elevates the RB room immediately.
While Fournette has historically been among the worst pass-blocking backs in the NFL and that may become even trickier with a left-handed QB, he does provide an upgrade in nearly every other facet of the game and there is some mitigation of that need. For a team that has holes to fill in the WR room and a pass rusher, signing a guy like Fournette to come to be the ready-made solution at such an important position, could provide a cushion to allow other high price tag signings and creativity via a loaded draft pick cupboard.