What happened to Leonard Fournette and the Jacksonville Jaguars? The franchise’s surprising move to release one of their top playmakers on Monday has resulted in mass reaction across social media from analysts speculating on the former first-round pick’s next landing spot and where the struggling AFC South team goes from here.
Fournette had two 1,000-yard seasons with the Jaguars and was entering the final year of his rookie deal, a campaign labeled as a contract year for the former LSU star.
« It’s mind-boggling the Jaguars could get nothing in return for Leonard Fournette, » ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck said on Get Up. « It doesn’t make sense. It’ll be interesting to see what else we learn for Jacksonville in the next day or so. Clearly, they’re trying to find a way to rebuild their football team. »
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone confirmed through a Zoom call with media members the franchise unsuccessfully tried to find a trade partner for Fournette. Through three NFL seasons, the 25-year-old Fournette has appeared in 36 games and has rushed for 2,631 yards with 17 touchdowns. He also has an additional 134 receptions for 1,009 yards and two scores.
The longshot on the list, Miami signed Jordan Howard to a two-year, $10 million deal this offseason and traded for Matt Breida, so the Dolphins are essentially set in their backfield. However, this team finished last in the NFL in rushing yards last fall and adding talent to a young offseason is always a plus for a struggling franchise.
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is not happy with his group of rookie running backs following last week’s scrimmage. Ronald Jones, veteran LeSean McCoy and first-year players Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Ray Calais are the options at tailback.
« I don’t care what year you are, you’re not fumbling the damn ball if you’re going to be a running back here, » Arians said.
Pittsburgh has a ton of bodies at running back and plans to « pick spots » this season with a collection of seasoned ballcarriers. James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland and Wendell Smallwood will all compete for carries. Where would that leave Fournette for the AFC North team?
« What do we always talk about in Seattle? They run the ball all the time without question, » ESPN’s Kimberly Martin said Monday on Get Up.
There’s no doubt the Seahawks love moving the chains on the ground, but Fournette would join a crowded stable of ballcarriers. Chris Carson has managed consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and Carlos Hyde signed a one-year deal with the franchise this offseason.
Miles Sanders is the future for the Eagles at running back after a promising rookie season (1,327 yards from scrimmage). If signed by Philadelphia, Fournette would likely battle Boston Scott for carries behind Sanders. The good news? Fournette has shown a penchant for producing as a receiving option out of the backfield and Sanders caught 50 passes last fall in that role.
With David Montgomery on the mend and Tarik Cohen anxious to get started on his « comeback » season, the addition of Fournette would benefit the Bears. And this is an offense that incorporates its running backs in the passing game, which Fournette has shown as a primary strength through three NFL seasons. In 2018, Cohen averaged 10.8 yards per reception, a career-best.
The best way to ease the pain of losing Tom Brady this offseason and embark on a new era offensively is to take some of the pressure of Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham at quarterback with a difference-maker in the backfield. That’s what Leonard Fournette would provide the Patriots.
The odds-on favorite to sign Fournette is Washington, who enters the season with 35-year-old Adrian Peterson as its starting running back and not a ton of depth behind him.
Suffice to say Fournette wore out his welcome in Jacksonville based on reports of a fractured relationship with management, but he doesn’t see it that way. Entering his fourth season this fall, Fournette said this summer he wants to press the reset button and start fresh.
Ask new Jacksonville signee Chris Thompson, who paints a more indicative picture of the real Fournette.
“He said, ‘You ain’t nothing like people say you are,’” Fournette said in a recent interview with ESPN. “[Thompson thought] I was always upset about things. Most of you guys know I’m always joking and playing; that’s just me. I think it kind of got out of hand, so I just wanted to get that out there.”
Fournette crossed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier as a rookie first-round pick in 2017 and last season, but the Jaguars haven’t been competitive since winning the AFC South a couple years ago. The Jaguars declined Fournette’s fifth-year option earlier this year, meaning this fall was setting up to be a contract season for the former five-star.
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