On Monday morning, the Jacksonville Jaguars made one of the most surprising moves off the offseason by waiving former No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette just 13 days before the season begins.
No trade. No value in return. Just a cut and a see you later for the player the Jaguars spent three years building their offense around. A simple release for a back they picked over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. What was once the fourth overall pick resulted in three years of service and 20 rushing touchdowns, and nothing more.
The fact that Fournette was released instead of traded so shortly before the season despite being a top pick just three years ago is one thing. But the fact that the Jaguars gave Fournette his walking papers when backs like Kallen Ballage have been traded for conditional seventh-round picks this offseason is even more jarring.
So, why exactly did the Jaguars let Fournette go for literally nothing? Head coach Doug Marrone explained during a Monday morning press conference that the team simply wasn't getting interest for the power back.
"Doing it now, we exhausted all trade opportunities. We weren't able to get anything there. So I just felt like now we can work on the team, the plan and get ourselves ready for the season.
There are a few things that need to be pointed out here, however. For one, the Jaguars likely have themselves partially to blame for Fournette's lack of trade value. The team attempted to trade him during the NFL Draft in April, but over the last three years the Jaguars have made it clear the issues they have had with Fournette. He has been suspended for games and had his guarantees voided by the team, and the Jaguars themselves have made it obvious that Fournette wasn't a part of the long-term future.
So if a player doesn't appear to be in good standing with his current team, and if it doesn't appear they value him much in the long-term, why would any other team cough up a pick for him?
Secondly, Fournette has not done enough to build value for himself. He has largely put the off-field issues behind him, with Marrone noting Monday's release "strictly had to do with on the field," but he has failed to establish himself as one of the NFL's top backs due to inconsistency.
"My question was can we get any value? And it was we couldn't get any. So, a fifth, sixth ... we couldn't get anything."
In three seasons, Fournette played in 36 regular season games and rushed 666 times for 2,631 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns, along with 134 receptions for 1,009 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also played in three postseason games, rushing 70 times for 242 yards (3.46 average) and four touchdowns, with three of those touchdowns coming against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoff's Divisional Round.
The Jaguars now have just two of their first-round picks from the 2010s decade still on the roster in Taven Bryan and Josh Allen. With Fournette gone, it is clear the Jaguars are attempting to put the Tom Coughlin era behind them, even if it means releasing a starting player less than two weeks before the first game.
But in the end, Fournette is the first back selected in the top-5 to not spend four years with the team who drafted him since Trent Richardson. The Jaguars picked Fournette over franchise quarterbacks because they had Blake Bortles, and just a few years later they are now releasing him and getting absolutely nothing in return.