The Jacksonville Jaguars surprisingly jettisoned star running back Leonard Fournette after just three seasons in the Sunshine State.
The former 2017 fourth-overall pick was released Monday, but the writing was on the wall for Fournette’s Duval departure after the franchise declined the running back’s fifth-year option in May.
Fournette’s game-changing play at LSU never really translated over to the NFL, and his mishaps along the way didn’t help, either. He was suspended twice in separate incidents, once by the league for fighting during a game, the other by the team for skipping a team picture. Fournette was also fined several times for being late to or not paying attention in meetings.
In 36 career games for the Jags, Fournette carried the ball 666 times for 2,631 yards and 17 touchdowns and an average of 4 yards per rush. He was somewhat of an albatross in the passing game, helping out with 134 receptions for 1,009 yards and two touchdowns.
Fournette's average of 101.1 yards per scrimmage each game, however, ranked fifth in the league since 2017, behind just Ezekiel Elliot, Christian McCaffrey, Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell, according to ESPN Stats & Info data.
Fournette’s release was a startling one considering he wasn’t considered a bust by any stretch of the imagination. Maurice Jones-Drew, the franchise’s second all-time leading rusher, wondered aloud why the team quit on Fournette.
Can anyone tell me what is going on in Duval? How do you draft a player top 5 and cut him 3 years later? How? How do you say his skill set doesn’t match your scheme when he is your best player at your position? What philosophy in football is successful without good players?— Maurice Jones-Drew (@MJD) August 31, 2020
Fournette’s exodus was part of a larger talent purge in Jacksonville. After reaching the AFC championship game in 2018, they’ve gone 11-21 since and have parted ways with cornerstone players.
Rival general managers made it clear to the Jaguars that Fournette had very little trade value. Coach Doug Marrone admitted they couldn’t even squeeze a sixth-rounder in exchange for the plodding running back.
Despite Fournette’s tumultuous tenure, he kept it classy on his way out and thanked the Jaguars and their fans in a tweet following his release.
Thank you, Jacksonville 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/LcckBRao4k— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) August 31, 2020
Now that Fournette is on the open market, there surely should be some interested teams for a 25-year-old with seemingly plenty of gas left in the tank.
Fournette will come with a particular price tag for any team that claims him to the tune of a $4.17 million salary this season. In other words, expect him to clear waivers.
Let’s look at some of the suitors who should be considering his services.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers can offer Tom Brady even more booty if they choose to sign Fournette, and the rusher might not need to pay a premium for his Florida moving truck if the team’s front office decides to pick up the phone. Ronald Jones II, third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn and aging All-Pro LeSean McCoy are in the mix for lead roles in pass-first Tampa, but the team can do away with the recently signed McCoy and not even look shady by pulling off the move.
The no-nonsense Brady can be the guiding force to help Fournette get his career back on track while in turn getting help for perhaps one last Lombardi run.
The Bears appeared to be set at running back until David Montgomery suffered a groin injury during training camp. It’s unclear whether the second-year starter can suit up for the season opener, and how serious the injury actually is. Scatback Tarik Cohen is not built to be the bell-cow back of the team, a role Fournette immediately can take on in Chicago.
Once Montgomery is fully healthy, the trio could form a prodigious punch.
Kansas City Chiefs
To the victor go the spoils, and the rich could get richer if they choose to take a flyer on Fournette. The Super Bowl champions boast a backfield featuring valued rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the likes of Darrel Williams, DeAndre Washington and Darwin Thompson.
The Chiefs already possess a high-powered offense, and alleviating some of Fournette’s ball-carrying burden with the help of the shifty Edwards-Helaire might actually allow for his career to hit a different dimension in Kansas City.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick loves a reclamation project more than the binoculars he uses scouting for talent. Fournette is a strong candidate to join the talent-depleted team in Foxboro and add further competition to an already busy backfield that features Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead.
Michel is recovering from offseason foot surgery, and Fournette’s downhill-type running style could be what Cam Newton and Co. need should they be in playoff contention come December.
Washington Football Team
What’s better than one Adrian Peterson? How about two Adrian Petersons! Fournette and Peterson both possess similar skill sets as bruisers with limited value as pass catchers on third down. After releasing former second-round pick and LSU product Derrius Guice, Washington needs to add additional depth behind the 35-year-old Peterson and third-rounder Antonio Gibson.
Los Angeles Rams
Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown will not make any defensive coordinator lose sleep drawing up gameplans to stop them. The Rams have just enough cap space to sign Fournette and have him reunite with another Jags castoff in Jalen Ramsey. They can also bridge the gap left by Todd Gurley’s departure.
Dating back to Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk, the Rams have always been well-stocked with star power in the backfield, and Fournette could perhaps carry that tradition.
It appears the Rams aren't interested in Fournette's services.
Sean McVay says the Rams will not look into bringing in RB Leonard Fournette.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) September 1, 2020
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners have one of the league’s top defensive teams, and if they plan to make another Super Bowl run, they need a clock-eating bully to help get them there. Raheem Mostert was a good story last year, and he’s slated to start over Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon.
The workhorse Fournette would create a logjam at the position, but he’d also immediately provide insurance and supplant the pack as the team’s best between-the-tackles option — even if he doesn't quite fit their zone-running scheme.
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