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Jags GM Says Team is 'Going to Go Forward' With Fournette

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Despite the deadline passing earlier this week to exercise Leonard Fournette's fifth-year option, the Jacksonville Jaguars plan on keeping the running back into next year. 

"There were just some minor discussions with that but nothing substantial throughout the draft or prior to the draft," general manager Dave Caldwell said on the PFT PM podcast. "I think the mindset is that we're going to go forward with Leonard on the team. I had a good talk with him on Friday. I know Coach [Doug] Marrone has had some discussion with him.

"He seems to be in great shape and mental frame of mind, and we feel that he'll have a great season this year."

The Jaguars had until Monday to decide if they wanted to pick up the running back's option for the 2021 season. Jacksonville would have paid Fournette, the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, $8.43 million in 2021 under that option.

The LSU product entered the NFL after one of the most successful college careers in recent memory, but has rushed for just 2,631 yards and 17 touchdowns in three NFL seasons. 

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He did, however, finish the 2019 season with a career-high 1,152 yards and recorded three touchdowns three rushing touchdowns this past season. He also caught 76 passes for 522 yards last season. 

Fournette was the first draft pick made by then-executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin in 2017. Coughlin, however, was dismissed this past December. 

Jacksonville also added pass-catching running back Chris Thompson on Friday.  

The Jaguars finished the 2019 season with a 6-10 record.

Analysis from John Shipley of JaguarReport: Once last month's draft passed without any potential Leonard Fournette trade materializing, it became clear Fournette would be in the picture for the Jaguars—at least in 2020.

As it stands, the only other players in Jacksonville's backfield are Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo and Chris Thompson. The Jaguars appear to be high on their pair of second-year backs in Armstead and Ozigbo, and Thompson, who just signed with the team last week, has years of experience with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Despite this, none of these three players have ever carried the load for a team's running game like Fournette has in the past. Even with the team declining his fifth-year option, Fournette still has experience as a workhorse back and it looks like the Jaguars will need him to be that once again in 2020.