JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars pulled a training camp surprise on Monday morning, waiving running back Leonard Fournette.
Even though Fournette had been a disappointment during his NFL career due to his lofty draft spot, it’s difficult to make sense of such a move. Jacksonville had already made a decision to move on from Fournette by not picking up his fifth-year option for 2021, but dumping him a year early was a shock.
Fournette was coming off the best season of his career and had been, by all accounts, enjoying a solid training camp.
Coach Doug Marrone said that the team made the decision based purely on football decisions alone, although Fournette was one of the top offensive players on a team bereft of playmakers.
“I just thought that was the best for the team and doing it now,” Marrone said. “We exhausted, you know, all trade opportunities we weren’t able to get anything there. So I just felt that, you know, now we can work on the team and the plan and get ourselves ready for the season.”
Fournette said in an afternoon post on Twitter that he was grateful for his time in Jacksonville and looking forward to the next step in his journey.
“First, I want to thank the city of Jacksonville and all of the fans for embracing me the past 3 seasons. We have been through some ups and downs but y’all had my back through it all. You have my deepest respect and appreciation. I would like to thank the Jaguars organization for giving me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL,” he wrote.
“To all of my brothers in the locker room from 2017 until today, y’all are family for life. I wish each of you the absolute best in your careers. I am excited about what will come next for myself. Wherever that may be, know that you will get a player who is focused, motivated, and ready to get to work.”
Thank you, Jacksonville 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/LcckBRao4k— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) August 31, 2020
With Fournette’s release, Ryquell Armstead, Nathan Cottrell, Devine Ozigbo, James Robinson and Chris Thompson are the running backs on the Jaguars roster. Robinson and Armstead are second-year players. Cottrell and Robinson are rookies. Thompson is in his seventh year.
Fournette was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. The Jaguars explored trading him throughout the offseason but Marrone said that the team couldn’t get anything for him.
“My question was [in the trade process], you know, can we get any value and it was we couldn’t we couldn’t get any,” Marrone said. “Fifth sixth [round picks], we couldn’t. We couldn’t. We couldn’t get anything.”
His release adds another layer to Jacksonville’s struggle with high draft picks. Among the players drafted by the Jaguars in the first round since 2010, only two remain on the team — defensive tackle Taven Bryan (2018) and defensive end Josh Allen (2019).
Fournette rushed for 2,631 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career and will no doubt be viewed as one more of the Jaguars wasted first-round draft picks. Jacksonville has had six picks in the top five from 2010-19. None remain with the team and three are currently out of the league.
Fournette was the pick by former executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin in his first draft since returning to the team in 2017. The Jaguars made the AFC championship game in Fournette’s rookie season, but he regressed in his second year and was never the player that they envisioned.
Fournette’s best season in the league came in 2019 when he rushed for 1,152 yards and caught 76 passes for 522 yards.
Fournette’s struggled were amplified by players who were selected after him who turned out to be far better in the NFL. Jamal Adams (sixth), Christian McCaffrey (eighth), Patrick Mahomes (10th) and Deshaun Watson (12th) were all selected not long after Fournette.
The offseason roster purge has only exacerbated the notion that the Jaguars, who have a pair of first- and second-round draft picks in 2021, are trying to position themselves to draft a high profile quarterback next year.
“If that’s the case [tanking] then the realization is if that happens and you know I’m not going to be here, right,” Marrone said. “I mean, at the end of the day if I don’t find a win enough games or do enough with this team I don’t foresee, you know, me being still being employed,” Marrone said.
“So I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we have the best team to win football games. I mean that’s as simple I can be on it.”
Jaguars first-round picks in the 2010s
A look at first-round draft picks by the Jaguars from 2010-19. General managers during this time were Gene Smith (2009-12) and Dave Caldwell (2013 to current). Tom Coughlin served as executive vice president of football operations from 2017-19.
Year, Draft pick, Position, Player
2019: 7. DE Josh Allen
2018: 29. DT Taven Bryan
2017: 4. RB Leonard Fournette*
2016: 5. CB Jalen Ramsey*
2015: 3. DE Dante Fowler*
2014: 3. QB Blake Bortles#
2013: 2. OT Luke Joeckel#
2012: 5. WR Justin Blackmon#
2011: 10. QB Blaine Gabbert*
2010: 10. DT Tyson Alualu*
* Indicates no longer with team
# Indicates no longer in NFL