It was no secret the Jaguars weren’t going to invest long-term in Leonard Fournette. After they declined the fifth-year option on his contract, rumors swirled around the time of the NFL Draft that Jacksonville was dangling Fournette in trade talks. Those obviously didn’t come to fruition, so Fournette was getting his normal training camp reps and was hoping to build on his career year in search of a lucrative free agent deal next off-season – that all changed yesterday when Fournette was suddenly put on waivers. Jacksonville’s trash proved to be nobody’s treasure as Fournette went unclaimed off waivers today and will now become an unrestricted free agent. The former fourth overall pick will attempt to resurrect his career as he’s still seeking a big money contract next year. The move has long-ranging dynasty impact, so let’s take a look at the players involved and some possible landing spots for Fournette.
Leonard Fournette, RB FA
While nowhere near the elite prospect the Jaguars thought they were getting when they took him fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Fournette has still been moderately effective when healthy. Over his 36 games, he’s posted 2,631 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s also proven to be a weapon out of the backfield (though far from an explosive one) as he’s caught 134 passes for 1,009 receiving yards and two more scores. Last year was his most productive season as he finished with a 265/1,152/3 line with a career high 76 catches for 522 more yards. Fournette was unlucky in the touchdown department, but still finished as the RB9, surprisingly ahead of players like Nick Chubb, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, Melvin Gordon and a whole host of others. Most importantly, his ankles held up for the most part.
The challenge for Fournette is he’s been a volume performer. In fact, he had a whopping 341 touches last season, something he likely just won’t come close to in his new home, regardless of where that will be. He was seventh in the league in carries (265) and 25th in receptions (76) last season. Without that volume, his chances of coming close to his statistical output from last year is tough to see, even if he does somehow see an increase in touchdowns. Still, he’ll be a motivated player who will have every incentive to perform well.
As far as teams go, I think there are some intriguing ones and Fournette signing with any of them would have some serious dynasty impact:
Tampa Bay = Are the Bucs feeling secure with Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn?
Washington = The release of Derrius Guice has left a gaping hole in their backfield.
Pittsburgh = James Conner is poised for a bounceback campaign, but can he really stay healthy?
LA Rams = It’s been rumored this is where Fournette wants to land. Do they feel comfortable with Cam Akers and their committee?
New Orleans = With Alvin Kamara possibly on the trade block, Fournette would likely love to go back home.
Buffalo = If the Bills don’t feel comfortable with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, Fournette fits their style.
Chicago = This still seems like the most sensible landing spot given the short-term injury to David Montgomery.
Kansas City Chiefs = With Damien Williams sitting out the year, they could use someone to pair with CEH as painful as that would be to see.
LA Chargers = If Fournette wants to play in Los Angeles and the Rams aren’t interested, he could be a power option with Austin Ekeler.
Miami = Do they feel good about the tandem of Matt Breida and Jordan Howard?
New York Jets = Only if they can’t get Kalen Ballage back, I guess.
Detroit = Because this is where running backs go to die.
New England = Because this is where running backs go to be used in maddening and unpredictable ways.
Really, there are countless scenarios out there and we’re going to find out just what some teams think about their depth charts here in the coming days. One thing is sure, though – his ADP is very volatile at the moment.
Ryquell Armstead. RB JAC
If there’s a big winner from the Fournette cut, it’s likely Armstead. While his numbers aren’t impressive (35/108/0 rushing and 14/144/2 receiving), he seems to be the next man up for the Jaguars. Unfortunately, he’s missed a good chuck of camp with an injury, opening the door for others to get reps. He seems to fit the bill of an early down running back and has familiarity with the offense. The best bet is this is going to be a running back by committee situation where all the backs get some work unless someone really emerges. If you had to bet on one, Armstead is likely going to get the first shot. Still, I wouldn’t be sending much value to anyone to acquire his services as this backfield looks like a jumbled mess at the moment. Besides, do you really see the Jaguars getting tons of scoring opportunities this season?
Chris Thompson, RB JAC
A lot of dynasty owners are running to acquire Thompson. I really wouldn’t. Thompson doesn’t fit the mold of an every down back and he was likely going to slot in as the third down receiving back anyway, taking many of those catches away from Fournette in the process. While he could get some additional carries with Fournette gone, I wouldn’t expect his short or long-term value to change that much – he was going to be part of the mix anyway, but more in a committee pass-catching role already. His partner will just be a different one now.
Devine Ozigbo, RB JAC
Ozigbo has all of 27 yards on nine carries in his career, but he’s shown some flashes at camp while taking reps from Armstead while he’s been nursing a minor injury. If Armstead isn’t healthy for the opener, it’s quite possible the Jaguars start Ozigbo in game one, which is enough for him to be a roster add in most leagues now. Still, it’s hard to imagine Ozigbo being the long-term answer. However, all you need in the league is a chance and it looks like he’ll get his sooner rather than later.
James Robinson, RB JAC
I’ve been one of only two DLF rookie rankers who have had Robinson in my top 50 rookies throughout the off-season. There’s some real intrigue here and it’s only been heightened with the release of Fournette. While Robinson has yet to even make the team, he dominated lower level competition last year at Illinois State and is a very durable player, proven by a whopping 364 carries for 1,899 yards last season. While he has a long way to go to earn dynasty relevance, he’s been one of my favorite deep sleepers and this only makes his situation better. While it’s no sure bet he gets any action at all, he’s worth a dart throw in a deep dynasty league as a player who could get a chance and produce if he does indeed make the final roster. If you want more on Robinson, click here and read my post-draft UDFA sleepers.
Devonta Freeman, RB FA
It’s possible the Jags look to the free agent market and add someone like Freeman. However, if Freeman is turning down contracts worth $4m (he reportedly did that with Seattle), it’s hard to see him taking less with Jacksonville and hard to see Jacksonville paying that much anyway. It’s probably more likely the Jaguars get someone who may be cut like Lamar Miller (if they’re even looking to add a veteran to the running back room). As for Freeman, he may need an early season injury to resurface.
With Fournette now an unrestricted free agent with teams no longer needing to eat his $4M salary, it shouldn’t take long for him to find a home. We’ll be back to cover those ramifications as soon as this story unfolds.
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