As the Jacksonville Jaguars ship off veterans, trade rumors around running back Leonard Fournette have surfaced. In what is surely not a coincidence, after he commented the team should sign Cam Newton, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Jaguars have had trade talks with other teams about Fournette.
Fournette set a career-high with 1,152 rushing yards in 2019, as he played a career-best 15 games before missing Week 17 with an illness. But most notably, he set clear career highs in catches (76), targets (100) and receiving yards (522). Over his first two seasons, he totaled 58 catches on 74 targets.
The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the league’s best offenses. But their ground game was subpar last year–23rd in yards per game (98.1) and 20th in yards per carry (4.2) with a middle of the pack 14 rushing scores. Remove what Patrick Mahomes did, 218 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and the numbers edge toward more dismal.
Damien Williams led the Chiefs in rushing last year, with 498 yards and five touchdowns on 111 carries. Second-leading rusher LeSean McCoy (465 yards) is gone.
Fournette averaged a lackluster 5.2 yards per target last year, to go with 4.3 yards per carry. Williams outdid him in both metrics, however marginally (4.5 yards per carry, 5.8 yards per target). Fournette also had more carries than Williams and McCoy combined (265 to 212), in an offense that was far worse across the board.
To take on Fournette’s $4.16 million salary for 2020, the Chiefs would have some work to do. They have just $329,458 in cap space right now, which isn’t even enough to sign all their upcoming draft picks. Signing defensive tackle Chris Jones to a multi-year deal would be helpful.
If only for the lower cost aspect, there’s a strong case for the Chiefs to draft a running back early. But Fournette is a proven commodity, with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a workhorse (265 and 268 carries) on his resume.
Fournette also comes fairly cheaply for what he can produce, with only a looming fifth-year option as any further commitment to him.
If Kansas City acquires Fournette shortly but doesn’t pick up that option, it’s still a great situation for him. There are few (if any) better spots for him to have a big season in 2020, then he’d hit the open market at age 26 in 2021. The Chiefs would also land an upgrade to by far their weakest skill position group.
The idea the Chiefs will add a better running back, via a trade for someone like Fournette or the draft, is a scary thought for opposing defenses. They might never punt again.