Could it be full tank mode for the Jacksonville Jaguars, perhaps with eyes on 2020 Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields? Or is it simply that enough was enough? Whatever the thought process, news broke in late August that the Jags were releasing Leonard Fournette, the running back they selected fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Online sportsbook Sportsbook has released odds on which team will sign the tailback and has listed the Chicago Bears as the +250 favorite. The New England Patriots (+275), Washington (+325) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+400) round out the top teams on the oddsboard.
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|New England Patriots||+275|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+400|
Why Was Fournette Released?
In the spring, the writing appeared to be on the wall that the LSU product’s tenure in Jacksonville was coming to a close. Fournette, who is still on his rookie contract heading into his fourth year, had his fifth-year option declined by the Jags, Sportsbook the door for him to hit free agency next year. It’s known that the team tried its hardest to move him but had no offers and eventually just released him.
Fournette failed to play a full 16-game season through his first three campaigns, though he did suit up in 15 games in 2019. Injuries and disciplinary issues have plagued the running back, who dealt with ankle and hamstring injuries and was suspended by the league for being involved in an on-field brawl and by the team (for one game) for violating team rules.
There’s no denying the upside that he brings, topping 1,000 rushing yards in two of his three seasons. Last year, he caught 76 passes for 522 yards, making him a dual threat, but his touchdown numbers have steadily dropped, from 10 in his rookie year to just three last year.
Why Is Chicago The Favorite?
Although the Bears have had a bit of a miserable run in the 2010s, some may forget that this squad put together a 12-4 season to win the NFC North in 2018. A season ago, they were 8-8 to finish third in the division. Some of the blame can be placed at QB Mitch Trubisky’s feet, but a noticeable difference between those two campaigns was the run game.
In 2018, Chicago had 16 rushing touchdowns and 1,938 yards on the ground, led by bruising back Jordan Howard, who collected nine majors and 935 yards, while speedy Tarik Cohen changed the pace with 444 yards and three touchdowns of his own. Howard was traded to the Eagles after that strong campaign in exchange for a sixth-round pick.
Last year, the Bears saw their rushing touchdowns cut in half to just eight, with nearly 500 fewer rushing yards at 1,458. Rookie RB David Montgomery played well with 889 yards and six majors, but Cohen regressed with just 213 yards and no TDs. Montgomery has suffered a groin injury that could nag a running back for a while, so Fournette makes sense to have a similar role as Howard in 2018 and perhaps bring this Bears team to the top of the NFC North again.
Which Team Is Providing Better Value Than Chicago?
I think the thought that went through my head is the same one that went across many others when Fournette was released and that was that the New England Patriots (+275) would snatch him up.
Does anyone remember that the Pats had troubled wide receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon last year? Head coach Bill Belichick has a track record of reforming castaways or straightening out troubled players and perhaps Fournette would be his latest project.
New England has frequently featured a balanced attack, especially in the run game with a change of pace such as LeGarrette Blount’s powerful attack mixed with Dion Lewis’ quickness in 2016, when the duo had 18 majors. Sony Michel is the current RB1 on the depth chart but has failed to eclipse 1,000 yards in his first two seasons and has had some injury troubles as well. Add in a big back like Fournette to complement the speed of Michel and the backfield may be able to replicate that 2016 success. Oh, by the way, the Pats won the Super Bowl that year.