The Jaguars are indeed looking to trade running back Leonard Fournette, PFT has confirmed. So will the Jaguars find someone to take Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft (a/k/a the guy taken four spots before Christian McCaffrey, six before Patrick Mahomes, and seven before Deshaun Watson), off their hands?
Fournette’s $4.1 million salary for 2020 represents roughly half the average amount that the Broncos are paying Melvin Gordon on a multi-year deal, and less than 50 percent of the one-year, $8.48 million that the Cardinals will pay Kenyan Drake for one season. But what would a team give the Jaguars for one year with Fournette, along with the ability to pick up a fifth-year option (before May 3) at $8.48 million for 2021?
Fournette had a solid third season, with 1,152 rushing yards and 522 receiving yards. But he is and has always been, as one source with knowledge of the dynamics put it, a “pain in the ass.”
In fairness to Fournette, plenty of great players are pains in the ass. (Plenty of non-great players also, pains in the ass.) The challenge becomes having the coaching and the player leadership that will influence the player to not be a pain in the ass.
So which team(s) need a downhill, between-the-tackles runner who can make real contributions in the passing game, and who would set aside any pain-in-the-ass tendencies based on the team and coach he plays for, and the teammates he plays with?
This one is simple: The Chiefs.
Although Damien Williams had a solid season in Kansas City, the Chiefs lack the kind of threat at running back that would give their offense true balance. Really, given the presence of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs should have more than 1,569 rushing yards as a team, and a leading rusher with more than 498. (Mahomes had 218.)
Last year, the Chiefs paid LeSean McCoy $3 million, after the Bills made him a surprise cut on Labor Day weekend. As the season progressed, McCoy fell out of favor, to the point where he didn’t even dress in the Super Bowl. Fournette, with much more tread on the tires and only $1.1 million more in salary for 2020, would make a ton of sense — especially given the potential influence of coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu, like Fournette, played at LSU. They grew up in the same New Orleans neighborhood. If any teammate is ever going to get Fournette pointed in the right direction, it’s going to be Mathieu.
Other potential options for Fournette that would have the potential ingredients to maximize his skills and minimize his potential disruptions would be the Steelers (who have struggled to replace Le'Veon Bell), the Eagles (despite Miles Sanders‘ aspirations to be another Christian McCaffrey), the Rams (who desperately need a post-Todd Gurley workhorse), the Buccaneers (#Tommy), and the Seahawks (who possibly would get in on the Fournette bidding just to keep him from the Rams).
Some of you also may be thinking about the Saints, given that Fournette could become the better-than-Latavius-Murray complement to Alvin Kamara. The Saints, however, owe Murray $3.2 million in guaranteed pay for 2020. So unless the Saints would be able to find a trade partner for Murray, they likely wouldn’t jump into the fray for Fournette.
Regardless, $4.1 million for a guy who generated 1,674 yards from scrimmage for a team with a work-in-progress passing game should result in plenty interest — and the Chiefs given their current tailback situation should be among the most interested.