The Jaguars have officially waived running back Leonard Fournette.
Where to begin?
The Jaguars and running back Leonard Fournette have had a rocky relationship for several years. The former first-round pick hasn't exactly lived up to the expectations that come with being a running back selected in the top five of the draft. The Jaguars voided the guaranteed part of his rookie contract a couple of seasons ago (grievance still ongoing). Earlier this spring, they opted not to pick up his fifth-year option for 2021. Then, trade rumors swirled around draft time, but there were no takers. The coaching staff, and organization as a whole, has been rumored to dislike Fournette's attitude and personality inside the locker room and on the field. Those rumors were confirmed today.
Fournette has been the focal point of the Jaguars' offense in recent seasons and has delivered mixed results. He dramatically improved from an efficiency standpoint in 2019, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, despite subpar blocking up front, but he struggled to find the endzone and scored just three touchdowns last season. Fournette has also shown he can be an effective receiver out of the backfield and is strong in pass protection. The timing of this move is curious. Perhaps the Jaguars were waiting for a team to offer draft capital for Fournette, and when that didn't happen, they decided to just part ways without any compensation.
With Fournette out of the picture, the Jaguars will lean on Devine Ozigbo, Ryquell Armstead, and Chris Thompson.
Ozigbo and Armstead were both rookies in 2019. The Jaguars selected Armstead in the fifth-round and sniped Ozigbo from the Saints' practice squad after he went undrafted. Both players have impressive size, speed, and quickness, but have a severe lack of experience with a combined 44 career rushes. Chris Thompson has a proven history as a pass catcher and runner in Jay Gruden's offense, but he also has a long injury history and isn't the type that can carry the load.
On the free-agent market, Devonta Freeman is still available, but it seems unlikely the Jaguars will shell out cash for an experienced veteran at this point. They save just over $4.167 million in 2020 cap space by waiving Fournette.
The Jaguars' front office has gone all-in on the 2020 youth movement. Some might call it a tank job, but I doubt that's the mindset inside the building. It's now clear that it's Gardner Minshew and the passing game or bust in 2020.
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