Until 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday, he can be traded. After that, he can be claimed on waivers for 24 hours. After that, he becomes a free agent.
Regardless of when or how running back Leonard Fournette lands with a new team, he’s destined to see his NFL career continue, somewhere. So where will it happen?
The inability of the Jaguars to find a trade partner hardly means there will be no interest in the player. Instead, no team has wanted to stand in Jacksonville’s shoes, owing Fournette $4.167 million guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap — and with no offset language if he’s ultimately released.
Still, Fournette’s skills justify interest, along with a chance to contribute to a team. He had 1,152 rushing yards last year, and another 522 receiving yards. He’s an effective and impressive between-the-tackles runner, with the size and power to bust through the first level and the speed to take it all the way to the end zone.
While it’s hardly an ideal time for Fournette to enter a meaningful competition to earn playing time in a new city, he fits well in an offense with simple and straightforward marching order — march the ball into the middle of the line and emerge on the other side.
Washington, which cut Derrius Guice earlier this month, makes sense. The Dolphins, with Jordan Howard as the top option, would benefit from Fournette. The Steelers, who struggled (unsuccessfully) to contain Fournette twice in 2017 would get a boost from Fournette. Also, coach Mike Tomlin could be able to bring an abrupt end to whatever it is that has made Fournette a pain in Jacksonville’s butt from time to time.
The Chiefs lost Damien Williams to a COVID-19 opt-out; combining Fournette with rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire (also from LSU) would give the Chiefs an incredibly dangerous running game. The Chargers, who saw Melvin Gordon leave in free agency, could combine Fournette with Austin Ekeler.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the Eagles, Bears, Falcons, Buccaneers, Rams, and Seahawks stand out as possibilities. If the Packers hadn’t drafted A.J. Dillion, Green Bay would be an intriguing possibility, given that former Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is now serving in that role with the Packers.
Then there are the Patriots, who already are being pegged as a team that potentially could get Fournette signed for peanuts and turn him loose in their offense.
However it plays out, someone is going to be getting the guy who finished seventh in the league in rushing last year, ahead of players like Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, and Josh Jacobs. Although the supply of competent running backs outweighs the demand, Fournette still has potentially special abilities that could make him among the best running backs in the league.
The question is whether getting cut will give Fournette the wake-up call he needs. Almost 30 years ago to the day, the Eagles waived a receiver who needed a wake-up call (for different reasons), officially claiming that “all he does is catch touchdowns.” All Cris Carter did after that was become a Hall of Famer in Minnesota.