Twitter exploded when running back Leonard Fournette was shockingly released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team has been shopping the LSU product since the NFL Draft to no avail. His release was a byproduct of his deteriorating relationship with the Jaguars who pulled his guaranteed money from his contract after the running back was suspended for a fight with Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson in 2018.
While the market for running backs is always a harsh one, it would be hard to imagine Fournette not on an NFL roster come Week 1. With that said, here are some spots where he could realistically land.
Listen, I don’t want this any more than any of you. But as soon as this popped in my head, it could not shake itself.
Sanders is currently dealing with a lower body injury and is currently week-to-week. While the reports are that the missing practice is a precautionary measure rather than a preventive one, the Eagles are incredibly short on weapons. With Jalen Reagor, Alshon Jeffrey and Dallas Goedert all dealing with their own injuries, an emphasis should be put on the run game early in the year. The team utilized Jordan Howard well before he went down to injury in Week 9, and coach Doug Pederson likes to have multiple options in the backfield.
I want Sanders to be the bell cow like everyone else, but Fournette fits the Howard mold and what Pederson has always done. A small, one-year deal to the Eagles would devastate those spending a first or second-round pick on Sanders.
Los Angeles Chargers
A theme can start to be seen here. In most situations, wherever Fournette goes will destroy the fantasy hopes of the starter there. In this case, Austin Ekeler.
The Chargers have used Melvin Gordon and Ekeler in tandem for several years now, and while the team seems to like Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelly, an upgrade would never hurt. Fournette could replicate Gordon’s success as a ground-and-pound running back to Ekeler’s shake-and-bake. With Mike Williams set to miss time and a rookie quarterback in Justin Herbert in tow, a strong running game goes a long way when paired with a strong defense and a suspect passing offense.
This would likely be the best landing spot for Fournette for fantasy. For Ekeler, he would fall to a middling RB2 at best rather than the RB1 he is currently projected to be.
If David Montgomery is slow to recover from his groin injury, there are no reliable options behind him. Tarik Cohen, while an explosive receiver, lacks the size to carry the load needed for a team that should try to win through a strong run game and a stronger defense. Ryan Nall has just two career carries and Artavis Pierce is an undrafted rookie.
The team is high on Montgomery, but head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are likely playing for their jobs this season. Fournette is an undeniable upgrade over the current backups and this team cannot afford to drop games early in the season. His signing would also allow the Bears to ease Montgomery back rather than force him back earlier, ideal for a soft-tissue injury.
Los Angeles Rams
Upon first glance, the Rams appear set at running back. Cam Akers is a promising second-round rookie, Darrell Henderson was a third-round pick just a year ago, and Malcolm Brown is the steady veteran presence.
However, Henderson is dealing with a nagging hamstring injury and Akers is still an unproven product. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, acquiring a cheap and proven option in Fournette could go a long way. According to Sports Illustrated’s Michael Fabiano, someone close to the Jaguars told him that Fournette would love to be reunited with Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was traded last season. He would finally be on a winning team where defenses would not game plan for him as much as they would Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods. Even better, he would be reunited with ex-Jaguar teammates Dante Fowler and the aforementioned Ramsey. Fournette could be willing to take a small contract and possibly even a smaller role to get his shot at the Super Bowl working alongside a talented offensive mind in head coach Sean McVay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Ronald Jones dealing with a seemingly minor foot injury, this backfield could use an upgrade. Fournette would face the lightest boxes of his career in Tampa Bay and could put up his best numbers yet in an Arians offense. Third-round rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn has yet to make an impact this preseason and likely won’t have an immediate role. LeSean McCoy’s best days are far behind him, and this is a team that needs to win now while 43-year-old Tom Brady can still run an offense.
Fournette would slide right in as the first and second-down back if Rojo misses time or falters. Head coach Bruce Arians has praised Jones this offseason and labeled him as the “main guy,” but things change fast in the NFL. If Arians or Brady believe Fournette gives them the best chance of winning, he will be a Buccaneer.
Arians also didn’t close the door on the move, saying that they will “wait and see” when it comes to a potential Fournette signing. Any indication that Jones will miss time should lead to the ex-Jaguar’s signing.