It’s not often a running back coming off a 1,152-yard, 76-catch season becomes available less than a week before final roster cuts, but the Los Angeles Rams will have the chance to add Leonard Fournette to their backfield if they’d like to.
While Fournette’s stats from last year look impressive on the surface, he simply hasn’t been a very productive running back in the NFL. In his career, he’s averaged 4.0 yards per carry and has only 19 total touchdowns in three seasons. For comparison, Aaron Jones and Christian McCaffrey each scored 19 touchdowns last year alone, and Todd Gurley had 14 himself in what was considered a down year. Fournette found the end zone only three times on 341 total touches in 2019.
The Rams had a clear void at running back after cutting Gurley, but they quickly filled it by drafting Cam Akers in the second round. That addition to the backfield alone should make signing Fournette highly unlikely for Los Angeles, even if his experience and downhill running style might benefit the Rams.
Los Angeles has three capable backs with Akers, Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, and adding Fournette would take touches away from all three. It might even cost Brown his job, given his similar running style to Fournette’s. The Rams have been encouraged by their backfield’s development this offseason, and adding Fournette would create more questions than answers.
The other hurdle with Fournette is his contract. Because he’s subject to waivers, the Rams can’t just immediately sign him. They have to put in a claim, and if any team higher than them in the order – as determined by the 2020 draft order – also claims Fournette, that team would get him.
But, by claiming Fournette, that team would also be forced to pay out the remainder of his contract, which is $4.16 million fully guaranteed for the 2020 season. The Rams currently have $4 million in cap space, so adding Fournette would force them to either make a cut or restructure a contract.
With Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp and a host of others to pay in 2021, the Rams need as much rollover money as they can get from this year to next. Claiming Fournette would lower that rollover cap, thus hindering their financial flexibility this year and in 2021.
Bringing in Fournette is a fun idea for the Rams, but it wouldn’t be worth the cost or the complications to the running back situation. At the same time, Fournette’s availability is another indication of the devaluation of the running back position, which is why so many were against the Rams taking one in the second round this year.
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