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Should Dolphins Add Fournette to Fortify Running Game?

The Miami Dolphins added two running backs in the offseason, but should they consider adding former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Leonard Fournette?

It's inevitable that when a big-name player becomes available, fans start raising the possibility of adding that player to their favorite team, and so it is with Leonard Fournette and the Miami Dolphins.

But would it make any sense?

Running back Leonard Fournette

Fournette was waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, less than two weeks before he set to start his fourth NFL season. To no one's surprise, no team traded for Fournette before he was put on waivers.

The reason for that is that any team trading for Fournette would have inherited his contract, including a guaranteed money provision that's in dispute after the Jaguars claimed a one-game suspension in 2018 voided the guarantee. And that's also going to be the case for any team claiming him off waivers.

If Fournette clears waivers tomorrow, then any team can sign him to a brand new contract, without the Jacksonville contract being a factor.

So what team conceivably could claim him off waivers or sign him later as a free agent?

Gambling site Bovada gave odds for Fournette's next destination to eight different teams, but the Dolphins were not one of those teams.

But why not?

The rationale would be that Miami already is set with veterans at running back after the free agent signing of Jordan Howard and the trade acquisition of Matt Breida.

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But are the Dolphins really set at running back?

Head coach Brian Flores indicated Monday he was "comfortable" with the five players on the roster at the position: Howard, Breida, second-year players Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird, and rookie free agent Salvon Ahmed.

“I feel good about really all five guys," Flores said before practice. Salvon, we just got him. I’m looking forward to seeing him and what he can do today, with this really being his first time out there. I think Laird and Gaskin and Breida and Jordan, all four guys are capable. All are competitive guys. All have some role in the kicking game and they’re different styles of back, each one of them. I think I’m comfortable with any of the five guys — or four guys, I haven’t seen Salvon up close yet. Yeah, I’m comfortable with all of the guys. That’s a hard-working group and a competitive group. Those are the things that I’m looking for. They run hard, they’re fast, they’ll block, catch the ball out of the backfield. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in 13 days.”

Here's the truth: Fournette is a better running back than anybody on the Dolphins roster.

And it's not just because he was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft after coming out of LSU.

Just take a quick look at his production in 2019: 1,152 rushing yards, 76 receptions for 522 yards. There were three running backs in the NFL in 2019 with at least 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette.

One argument for claiming Fournette off waivers would be that he's set to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, so the Dolphins could have the option of re-signing him or letting him go as a UFA and hope he can help bring a compensatory draft pick — though the formula is based on overall free agency gains and losses, and not just one players.

Now, the problem with signing Fournette or claiming him off waivers is that the Dolphins just added Howard and Breida, though Howard's salary is guaranteed only this season and Breida is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

Having Fournette and Howard on the roster this year would seem redundant, though, because they're backs with similar styles. 

So on the surface, yes, absolutely, the Dolphins should sign Fournette. But that ship probably has sailed, as the saying goes.