The tumultuous relationship between Leonard Fournette and the Jacksonville Jaguars has come to an abrupt end. The 25-year-old hasn’t been in the best graces of the organization as of late and, as such, the team opted to pass on activating his fifth-year option that would’ve secured him through the 2021 season. They went one step further on Monday, less than two weeks ahead of the regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, officially releasing Fournette altogether — the team announced.
Fournette was to enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2020 and earn $4.17 million in base salary. That amount is/was fully guaranteed, and thus he’s scheduled still receive it on his way out. The caveat there is the Jaguars will at least put up a fight to try and avoid paying it, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, having voided the guaranteed money and are leaning on a previous suspension to justify it, but Fournette has filed a grievance to get his money.
That is a clear indication of just how ready the Jaguars are to move on without their former fourth-overall pick, willing to potentially eat over $4 million to wave goodbye once and for all — assuming they lose the grievance. Otherwise, it will be a clean financial parting of ways.
Once the pride of LSU, Fournette was as sought after as any prospect in recent memory when he entered the 2017 NFL Draft. On the heels of Ezekiel Elliott’s blazing success with the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 — after getting the call as the club’s fourth-overall pick — there was a massive paradigm shift in the NFL that made it OK again to put a premium value on a top-flight running back. But while Fournette’s arc in Jacksonville wasn’t at all a bust, it didn’t go nearly as swimmingly as the relationship between Elliott and the Cowboys. From veiled criticism of the organization’s decisions to an outright rebuke of quarterback Gardner Minshew in a comment lobbying the team to sign Cam Newton instead, the writing has been on the wall for this divorce for seemingly some time.
It was expected the team would allow him to play out his final year, however, considering he’s coming off of a 2019 season in which he delivered 1,674 yards from scrimmage for an offense that played see saw at the QB position. Instead, the Jaguars cut the cord in training camp, leaving Fournette little time to find a new home before the regular season begins. His release comes a day after the Jaguars traded pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Vikings for draft picks.