Leonard Fournette used the Patriots as leverage

The Patriots hosted running back Leonard Fournette on a free agent visit Monday to see him sign a new contract with the Buccaneers the next day.

In other words, the Patriots just got used to it. They’re nothing more than a bargaining chip for veterans who want to make another Super Bowl run with Tom Brady.

The Bucs signed Fournette on Tuesday to a three-year, $21 million deal. The 2017 first-round pick had the best season of his career at Tampa Bay, ranking sixth among all NFL running backs with 1,266 yards from scrimmage. It was a great callback to his 2020 postseason run, in which he led the Bucs with 448 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns en route to the Super Bowl.

Fournette rushed for 135 yards in Super Bowl LV as the Buccaneers beat the Chiefs.

When news of Fournette’s trip to Foxborough broke, it looked like Bill Belichick might have an offseason plan after all. The Patriots would have added Fournette to a deep backfield that already includes Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and the recently re-signed James White. Unwilling to spend on receivers, the Patriots’ interest in Fournette signaled that Belichick may be trying to add profitable playmakers elsewhere.

Instead, it indicated Fournette’s desire to get a little more out of the Bucs.

Fournette is one of many veterans who flocked to Tampa Bay when Brady signed two years ago. Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, LeSean McCoy and Antonio Brown also joined Brady.

This offseason, Brady’s retirement reversal prompted the Buccaneers to deftly restructure the contracts of Mike Evans and Shaq Barrett, creating salary cap margin to retain Chris Godwin. They also acquired Shaq Mason from the Patriots for a meager fifth-round pick.

Belichick appears to be helping Brady on his quest for his eighth Super Bowl win.

For years, veteran players have made cut-price deals to sign with the Patriots. But as Fournette’s actions show, they really wanted to play with Brady.

SI Albert Breer Reports Fournette was one of the free agents that Brady recruited “aggressively,” and there are still more.

Be on the lookout for the next Buccaneer to land in Foxborough, only to return to Tampa Bay hours later with more ammo to end up where it really wants.