Leonard Fournette: It shouldn’t have gotten to this point with the Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Leonard Fournette #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates a second half touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field on November 18, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Leonard Fournette #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates a second half touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field on November 18, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars front office will not pick up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of Leonard Fournette.

With the 4th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select… another contract they won’t renew in four years in Leonard Fournette.

Ahhhh, a rivalry as old as time, the Jacksonville Jaguars versus signing their first-round pick to a second contract (I am giving ZERO credit to the Blake Bortles extension). However, don’t get me wrong – declining Leonard Fournette’s 5th Year Option is absolutely the right decision, but it’s one that is so obvious it casts a giant spotlight on the fact he was even drafted fourth overall in 2017.

At this point we all know who the Jaguars should’ve selected with the pick – Corey Davis hands down (Just Kidding). Jokes aside, we know a quarterback should have gone to the Jaguars in a move that would’ve erased arguably three of the worst mistakes the Jaguars have made in the past three seasons: Drafting Fournette, Signing Blake Bortles to an extension, and signing Nick Foles.

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Realizing that, I would be hard-pressed to find greater evidence showing the incompetence of former football czar Tom Coughlin and his impact on the team for years to come.

I want to make something clear. I have nothing against Leonard Fournette, I find him to be absolutely hilarious on and off the field and someone who appears to genuinely care about his community. Unfortunately, Fournette should have never been a top 10 pick, period. Three seasons removed from being drafted, he is viewed as average/slightly above average when you rank him (contract cost included) amongst the league’s current starters (I have him around 13-15). When you take a player in the top five, they need to be able to show All-Pro abilities by the time their rookie contract is up.

Leonard Fournette has shown glimpses, but there is nothing there that shows he can consistently be the guy worth paying, especially for a position group like running back that continually shows us that there are more than enough Day 2 prospects to make an impact for a third of the cost.

Before Fournette, Todd Gurley (2015 Top 10 Draft selection) was able to show the NFL why using a high pick on running back was a good idea and in turn, made taking Fournette in 2017 seem to make sense. Fast forward to 2020 and the opposite has transpired with Gurley, as he now has arthritic knees and left a dead cap number of $20.15 Million (2015 ironic I know) over two years behind with the Rams who opted to cut him after not being able to trade him.

Point is, the running back position beats down even the best of players, and there simply isn’t value in using even a top 10 pick on a position group that, when they reach year five and are already past their prime.

When the Jaguars declined the 5th year option on Leonard Fournette they essentially changed his contract into a one-year deal worth $4.1 Million (per Spotrac with $4.4 Million in dead cap hit if traded or cut). While its an obvious move, it also plays in the favor of the Jaguars being able to move Fournette for the right price to a team who could view themselves as a running back away from a championship.

There are teams out there in this league that could use one of their picks for a one-year rental of Fournette (with a potential compensatory pick in later years if he nets a healthy deal). I would keep an eye on Fournette being moved if any catastrophic injury occurred to a starter on a contending team, sort of like when the Dodgers traded for Manny Machado after Corey Seager went down and rode his bat to the World Series.

The same goes for Sam Bradford and the Minnesota Vikings. I could see this type of situation playing out for the Jaguars although on a much smaller scale. The fact that the front office/coaching staff appear to have had enough of Fournette’s antics doesn’t bode well for him, but they should hang onto him if the price isn’t right for his services.

It may have been the right move for the Jaguars to decline Leonard Fournette’s fifth-year option but it was the Jaguars fault that they even had to make a decision on a player they should have never taken. I really hope that Leonard Fournette has his best year yet. I doubt he comes close to his career-high 76 catches from last year after the addition of change of pace back Chris Thompson.

One good thing that could come out of this season for the Jaguars and Fournette might be a Jay Gruden offense that mixes it up enough so that the workhorse isn’t running into eight-man boxes and runs more efficiently. This means he is able to make it to the second level with a full head of steam. Tis the Off-Season so we shall see.

Next. How Chris Thompson helps the Jacksonville Jaguars. dark