The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are signing former Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard to a one-year contract, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports. Financial terms were not disclosed as of the time this story was published.
If the Buccaneers offense could have utilized an upgrade anywhere this offseason, it's at the third-down running back position. Rising fourth-year back Ronald Jones II and the recently re-signed Leonard Fournette are dependable rushers, but lack dependability in the pass catching and protection department
Bernard has caught 342 passes for 2,867 yards and 11 scores through the air in his career, meaning he certainly fits the bill. He caught 47 passes this past year while averaging 7.8 yards per reception, offering a check-down option and yards-after-the-catch threat as his average depth of target was 0.9 yards per PFF.
In addition, Bernard averaged four yards per carry and scored 22 touchdowns on the ground throughout his eight-year career in Cincinnati.
Pelissero reports that quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians were active in recruiting Bernard to join the Buccaneers after his release from the Bengals last week. Tampa Bay was reportedly interested in signing former free agent running back and Brady's previous New England teammate James White before he opted to return to the Patriots in March.
Given Bernard's signing, it becomes unlikely that the Buccaneers will prioritize adding a running back via the 2021 NFL Draft. Arians has vocalized his support of not just Jones and Fournette, but rising second-year running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn as well this offseason.
However, as Arians and general manager Jason Licht have indicated that they will approach the upcoming draft with a "best player available" strategy, it can't be totally ruled out that the Bucs could select one that they deem a valuable prospect at some point.