The Jacksonville Jaguars have released former New Orleans prep star and LSU standout Leonard Fournette on Monday morning. The Jaguars took Fournette in the 2017 NFL Draft as their first-round draft choice.
Don't expect New Orleans to claim Fournette off of the waiver wire. Why? The Saints have a good talent at running back. But, this team has done the unpredictable.
Here's the play in New Orleans. The running back room consists of Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, Ty Montgomery, and undrafted rookie Tony Jones, Jr. (Notre Dame). The Saints are situated well with Kamara and Murray in the #1 and #2 running back spots. However, Kamara has been absent from several practices from what coach Sean Payton describes as the "stomach flu." Hopefully, he returns soon.
Murray is more than capable of filling the void left by Kamara. He prove this in Kamara's absence due to injury in 2019. Montgomery was an excellent free-agent signing for the Saints. He can handle the screens plays and schemes out of the backfield to mimic Kamara's production. On Friday, the New Orleans officially placed Dwayne Washington on the NFL's COVID-19 reserved list. On Monday, the only healthy running backs listed for the Saints are Murray, Montgomery, and Jones, Jr.
Making a play on Fournette would have to be a calculated move by GM Mickey Loomis. The Saints' lockerroom can handle the presence of a Leonard Fournette, but does he progress New Orleans' offensive scheme. Fournette is a tailback who needs to have a minimum of 15 touches per game. Under Sean Payton's offensive strategy, a running back must be versatile. They must run, catch, and block; but, most of all, they must be patient for the opportunities to come inside of a game.
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Deuce McAllister and Mark Ingram were solid running backs who showed the patience and understanding of winning in the Payton era. They both were productive running backs but accepted the explosive and dynamic talents of a Reggie Bush and Alvin Kamara. McAllister and Ingram shared the responsibilities and welcomed them as necessary elements to the New Orleans Saints' offensive formula of success.
While Founette has some good attributes, should the Saints risk claiming him and his compensation. According to Overthecap.com, Fournette's cap hit for 2020 is $6,138,481. He must file a grievance to recoup over $4M from an earlier suspension from the Jaguars. Also, the Saints have $6,995,646 in cap space for the remainder of 2020.
Productivity is a factor, as well. Compared to the other 2017 NFL Draft classmates at running back, Fournette has underachieved for being the #4 overall pick. He has 2,631 yds (rushing), 1,009 yds (receiving), and 19 total touchdowns in three seasons. If you compare Kamara's 2,408 yds (rushing), 2,068 yds (receiving), and 37 total touchdowns and McCaffrey's 2,920 (rushing), 2,523 (receiving), and 39 total touchdowns, Fournette does not come close. Extenuating circumstances contributed to his lower on-field activity - injury, change in coaching, suspension, and weight.
When Fournette entered the draft, there were high expectations for a running back with his size, speed, power, and bruising running style. Many experts likened him to Hall of Famer Jim Brown. Unfortunately for Fournette, he never was comfortable with Coach Doug Marone and former GM Tom Coughlin.
Both are good old school coaches. Fournette's perceived lack of attention for his body and details to the football game led to Tom Coughlin's run-ins and lack of support. Jacksonville's purge of premier players has always been a concern. The Jags traded Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings this weekend. Ending the services of Fournette came at no surprise.
Field Yates wrote about the Jacksonville purge "from 2012-2017, the Jaguars made SIX straight picks in the Top 5: WR Justin Blackmon, OT Luke Joeckel, QB Blake Bortles, DE Dante Fowler, Jr., CB Jalen Ramsey and then RB Leonard Fournette. None of them last more than five seasons with the team."
There is a low probability of New Orleans submitting a claim for Fournette. But, nothing is definitive in the NFL, especially since the Saints have not shared many details on Alvin Kamara's recent illness. Saints fans have clamored for the team to get the running back.
I don't expect New Orleans to place a waiver claim for Leonard Fournette. If they do show interest in the player, watch several dominoes to fall as a result.