After failing to find an NFL team willing to trade for him, the Jacksonville Jaguars released star running back Leonard Fournette on Monday. Now that the former No. 4 overall pick has cleared waivers, several NFL teams should be looking to sign Fournette.
Fournette never lived up to the hype that followed him into the 2017 NFL Draft. Selected ahead of star running back Christian McCaffrey, along with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, he is another draft bust by the Jaguars.
While he didn’t deliver on his draft status and quickly burned bridges in Jacksonville, the 25-year-old is still a talented and physical runner. With several teams in need of significant help at running back, including a few contenders, he could be a missing piece for several offenses.
Let’s take a look at the five NFL teams that should sign Leonard Fournette.
New England Patriots
Fournette made his case for the Jaguars to sign Cam Newton. Perhaps Newton will do the same for him. We know Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to take chances on players, especially those who caused locker room problems with their former clubs. A look at New England’s backfield shows this might be the perfect landing spot for Fournette.
The Patriots have a great pass-catching back in James White, a skill that complements Fournette’s power running. Josh McDaniels could have both running backs in the backfield next to Newton, keeping opponents off-balance all day. A one-year, incentive-heavy deal would give Fournette a chance to prove himself with huge upside for himself and the Patriots.
The Bears will be dependent on its running game this season, given who they plan to start at quarterback. David Montgomery will be sidelined to open the regular season and he averaged only 3.7 yards per carry in 2019. Frankly, Chicago should be one of the first teams to call Fournette this week.
While the weather might not be ideal, this is a situation where Fournette could be successful. The offensive line will be better than we saw in 2019 and running backs have been successful in this offense. Fournette can carry the ball 20-plus times, while Tarik Cohen moves around and catches passes out of the backfield.
Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles spent a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Cam Akers and a top-70 pick on Darrel Henderson Jr. in 2019. Both running backs could be effective in Sean McVay’s offense, but we know this team could benefit from adding a bulldozer to its backfield.
Of course, the opportunity to play in LA could be appealing to Fournette. While he might need to share a workload with Akers and Henderson, he would be the goal-line back and called upon in short-yardage situations. While there might be a few better fits for him, it would make sense for the Rams to add Fournette.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are taking an all-in to approach this season and that makes for exciting football. Tampa Bay’s offense will obviously center on Tom Brady throwing the football to All-Pro weapons Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. However, we’ve still got some questions about the running game this season.
Ronald Jones averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season, but it’s difficult to trust him holding onto the football and staying consistent. Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy is a shell of the player he used to be. Fournette could start immediately, powering through defenses that are focused on stopping Brady. It would be a win-win for both teams and could lead to the Buccaneers playing at home in Super Bowl LV.
Bill O’Brien loves running backs. He proved it this offseason with the laughable trade for David Johnson. There’s a chance Johnson could return to his former glory this year, but he’s still not a player who Houston’s offense can feed near the goal line and count on for those third-and-short situations. That’s where Fournette comes in.
The pairing between him and Johnson would be perfect. Similar to if he signed with the Patriots, Fournette could line up behind Deshaun Watson and Johnson could move around the field. It creates an element of mystery. Houston could hand it to Fournette for a run up the middle, toss it to Johnson in motion or let Watson burn them with a deep shot off the play-action pass. Plus, Fournette would get two shots at revenge against the Jaguars.