While the 2020 quarterback carousel has been the most interesting aspect of free agency this year (outside of coronavirus-related issues), running back movement has also had some notable moments, though that may be more expected. The latest to potentially hit the market: Leonard Fournette.
Jaguars have had trade discussions with other teams regarding RB Leonard Fournette, league sources tell ESPN. Fournette is due $4.16 million in base salary in 2020. It's a situation that bears watching as this week's draft approaches.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 18, 2020
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, a controversial selection for many fans who feel that running backs do not matter. Of course, Fournette went three spots ahead of Christian McCaffrey, who isn’t going anywhere; McCaffrey signed a $64 million contract extension last week. McCaffrey has been called an “exception” to the running back rule because of his receiving prowess, although I am not sure how that excludes him from my number one issue with running backs: health concerns.
Fournette has 666 carries and 134 receptions for 800 career touches.
McCaffrey has 623 carries and 303 receptions for 926 career touches.
As to player movement, the LA Rams cut Todd Gurley, who went to the Atlanta Falcons. Devonta Freeman was cut by the Falcons and is a free agent. The Arizona Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake last season and retained him, trading David Johnson to the Houston Texans. Carlos Hyde rushed for over 1,000 yards with the Texans last season, turned down a contract offer from Houston, and remains a free agent. Melvin Gordon, who went five picks after Gurley in 2015, was not retained by the LA Chargers and signed with the Denver Broncos, who in turn may end up having to part with Royce Freeman, a recent third round pick.
For what it’s worth, over his first three campaigns, Gurley had 786 carries and 128 receptions for 914 career touches headed into the 2018 season that ultimately proved his undoing, albeit with a prior injury to that knee.
Freeman had 688 carries and 163 receptions for 851 touches headed into the 2018 season that he missed virtually all of.
Johnson had 418 carries and 116 receptions in two seasons, 534 touches, before he got hurt and missed basically all of 2017.
Gordon had 722 carries and 132 receptions over his first three seasons, a total of 854 touches, and missed four games in year four with a knee injury.
The Rams have Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and John Kelly at the moment and could draft a running back early enough to give him basically a guaranteed spot on the roster. But there are also free agent and trade options available to them and that should continue through the summer and into the fall. It doesn’t mean that they’ll trade for Fournette, but if he does move, another running back could be the following domino to hit the market.
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With Gurley released and subsequently signed by the Atlanta Falcons, Brown and Henderson are projected to share the load for a Rams team venturing into new territory.
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