Flashing back to the 2017 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette with the 4th overall pick. Three years later, the Jacksonville Jaguars have waived Fournette. Prior to his days in Jacksonville, he was the top-ranked player in the 2014 recruiting class by multiple scouting outlets (CBS Sports, ESPN and 24/7 Sports).
Choosing to play for a run-heavy LSU Tigers (at the time) was a wise choice. Three years and 3,830 rushing yards later, he became one of the top names in an NFL Draft that had Christian McCaffrey, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. All three players were selected after Fournette and now the expectation around the league is that the Jaguars are “all in” on the 2021 NFL Draft for a quarterback. With two first-round picks for the 2021 NFL Draft, it’s safe to assume they have the ammunition to get in position for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.
But as the Jaguars prepare for their next move, what is the next move for Leonard Fournette?
First, he’ll need to clear waivers. Expecting that he does, he’ll be able to sign where he wants. He’s 25-years old and is coming off a career year for the Jaguars. He had over 1,100 rushing yards with a career-high of 76 receptions last season. Unfortunately, two seasons ago wasn’t as thrilling. He was hampered by a groin injury and ended up getting a one-game suspension after getting into a fistfight with Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson to cap off his season.
His career has been less than spectacular but again, he’s still young for the running back position and is coming off the best year of his career. There’s some concern into why the Jaguars couldn’t get one draft pick for him so maybe there’s more behind the scenes than what meets the eye. Whatever the case may be, here are four teams that should absolutely consider signing Leonard Fournette.
Before people from the Windy City fill my mentions, please understand that I know you have Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery. That’s just it, though. Both players have their defined roles but if the Bears want to hide their bad quarterback play that’s set to be the laughing stock of the league again, they need to have a better run game.
In 2019, the Bears only averaged 91.1 rushing yards per game which made them 27th overall in the NFL. This year, many are predicting that David Montgomery will have a sophomore surge. Despite that being a possibility for the Bears, he’s currently battling through a groin injury. Keep in mind, if he rushes back too quickly, he could fall into a similar situation as Fournette did with the Jaguars during the 2018 season.
As for Tarik Cohen, he’s primarily a pass-catcher for the Bears. Since entering the league in 2017, he has 203 receptions but has never topped 99 carries in a single season. If the groin injury sustained by Montgomery begins to linger and stretches deep into the season, Fournette would be a solid option to have in the back pocket for the Bears. Fournette wouldn’t need to record over 70 receptions like he did for the Jaguars last season but he could be a more consistent runner between the tackles and would allow Montgomery to ensure he’s 100-percent healthy moving forward.
Washington Football Team
If there’s an NFL team that needs to make a splash, it would be the Washington Football Team. From an investigation starting within the front office to running back Derrius Guice being released, there’s been a lot of negatives coming out of this franchise. Unfortunately, it might not stop any time soon. With that being said they should consider bringing in a fresh face to their backfield by signing Leonard Fournette.
No disrespect to Adrian Peterson but he’s 35-years old and the production is starting to evaporate. With some younger running backs on the roster, it’s a matter of time before the volume starts to disappear as well. There’s a strong chance that they use Antonio Gibson in a variety of ways but he’s got a better chance of becoming a productive pass-catcher before a productive runner between the tackles.
By adding Leonard Fournette, the Washington Football Team would really help give their rushing attacks a new identity. It would also help further along the development of quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Meanwhile, it would help take some of the pressure off Terry McLaurin as he’s the only true playmaker in this offense. If there’s any team that needs to make this move, it would be the Washington Football Team.
Los Angeles Rams
Last offseason, the Rams made a surprising move by letting go of running back Todd Gurley. The Rams find themselves facing a decision on if they trust the young running backs they’ve drafted or if bringing in a veteran who has a lot to offer would suit them better.
In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Rams selected Darrell Henderson in the 3rd round. They followed it up by drafting Cam Akers in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Both players are talented running backs that look to give the Rams a new look in their backfield. However, there’s still a lot unknown between the two of them on an NFL field. This could lead to Sean McVay having some interest in Leonard Fournette for his offense.
Keep in mind that the Rams run to the Super Bowl in 2018 was helped by 17 rushing touchdowns by Todd Gurley in the regular season. Most importantly, it helped an offense keep a balanced attack that won with a passing game that survived off play-action. Take a look at the 2019 season and the disappearance of the running game and you get 9-7 football team that had a struggling $100 million dollar quarterback in Jared Goff.
Take that with all of the unknowns lurking in their backfield and Fournette becomes a no-brainer. He could give them another year or two to sort through what type of talent they have running the football. Aside from all of this, Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Fournette were teammates in Jacksonville. Maybe there’s a chance that Ramsey can influence both parties to mutually agree to a contract.
Through all of this, there has to be a team that becomes a head-scratcher if Fournette were to sign with them. For me, the Houston Texans become that team. Which, actually, would be par for the course when it comes to the decisions made by Bill O’Brien. In the off-season, he traded Deandre Hopkins and a 4th round pick to the Cardinals for David Johnson, 2021 4th round pick and a 2nd round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Without a true number one receiver on the roster, the Texans could show interest in a running back they’ve grown familiar with from division play in the AFC South. Having a two-headed monster in their backfield could help alleviate some pressure off Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb as none of them are true number one receivers.
Despite being in “great shape” entering the Texans training camp, Johnson is 28-years old and has battled through a dislocated wrist that ended his 2018 season and suffered an MCL sprain at the end of the 2017 season. Let’s keep in mind, Johnson carries a cap hit over $11 million dollars for this upcoming season. However, his dead cap hit (according to Spotrac) for next season would only be $2.1 million dollars. If another injury occurs or he doesn’t meet the high expectations, the Texans could put themselves in a position to get out of a tough contract or bring in a running back that is three years younger with a lot more to give to the organization.