Leonard Fournette returns to Bucs; all 22 Super Bowl starters now back in 2021 for NFL champions

Running back Leonard Fournette will return to the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, who will look basically the same as last season.
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It's almost unprecedented for a Super Bowl champion to return every single starter on offense and defense the following season in the salary-cap era because guys get picked off in free agency, traded, released, retire, etc. However, with the news that running back Leonard Fournette has re-signed with the defending champion Buccaneers, all 22 guys who started Feb. 7 in the 31-9 upset of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa are back. The Bucs are +800 second favorites at William Hill to repeat at Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles.

Fournette played in 13 regular-season games last season and started only three because the Bucs had Ronald Jones as their primary back. Fournette rushed for 367 yards and six scores on 97 carries. However, Jones got hurt and Fournette was the clear No. 1 guy in the playoffs, starting every game and rushing 64 times for 300 yards and three touchdowns -- earning the nickname "Lombardi Lenny." The Bucs have signed Fournette to a one-year, $3.25 million contract with a chance to make $4 million including incentives.

Tampa has amazingly kept the band together despite the salary cap dropping $16 million, re-signing linebackers Shag Barrett and Lavonte David on long-term deals, defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (yes, he started the Super Bowl) on a two-year deal, fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on a one-year deal, tight end Rob Gronkowski on a one-year deal, and franchise tagging receiver Chris Godwin.

Free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown, who did not start the Super Bowl, is the only noteworthy player on the 2020 roster who is not yet under contract for 2021 – but Tom Brady wants Brown back, so he surely will be. Shoot, even place-kicker Ryan Succop was re-signed to a three-year deal worth $12 million. And, yes, punter Bradley Pinion is under contract, too.

The NFL schedule is due out in early May, but SportsLine oddsmakers expect the Bucs to open the season in the Kickoff Game on Sept. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys. 

The top free-agent running backs left on the market are Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson (who mentioned wanting to play for the Bucs, but that's not an option now) Le'Veon Bell and Frank Gore. 

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SportsLine Staff
SportsLine Staff