The Jaguars made the first move in a $7.1 million game of chess, voiding the remaining guarantees in running back Leonard Fournette‘s contract and forcing Fournette to file a grievance aimed at challenging his status.
Fournette will have 50 days to file the non-injury grievance, pursuant to Article 43 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And he will. And an arbitrator eventually will decide whether Fournette’s contract includes language sufficient to void future guaranteed salary, as authorized by Article 4, Section 9(g).
Under that provision, the player and the team “may negotiate the circumstances under which the guarantee of any unearned salary . . . may be voided.” So the question then would be whether Fournette’s contract authorizes the voiding of his future guaranteed salary if he is suspended for misconduct occurring during a game.
And the answer, based on Fournette’s contract, isn’t clear. The contract broadly voids guaranteed salary in 2019 and 2020 when the player “does not practice or play” for reasons other than a football-related injury, but it doesn’t specifically list failure to play due to a suspension for on-field misconduct. The problem, from the team’s perspective, is that the contract does enumerate other specific failures to play, including voluntary retirement, incarceration for a felony conviction (which implies that incarceration for a misdemeanor conviction doesn’t void guarantees), and suspensions for conduct detrimental to the team, violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, violation of the PED policy, or violation of the substance-abuse policy.
Thus, the argument from Fournette’s perspective would be that the failure to specifically include a suspension for on-field misconduct on the list exempts that type of a suspension from the general language voiding future guarantees.
However it plays out, Fournette undoubtedly will fight it. Too much is at stake. And Fournette can make a case that holds more than a little water.