The move ends a tumultuous three-year run in which Fournette rushed for 2,631 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Jaguars didn’t pick up his fifth-year option during the offseason and actively pursued a trade without receiving any serious offers.
Fournette thanked the Jaguars and their fans in a tweet, writing “We have been through some up and downs but y’all have had my back through it all. You have my deepest respect and appreciation.”
Thank you, Jacksonville 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/LcckBRao4k
— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) August 31, 2020
Coach Doug Marrone said the move was strictly related to what he has seen on the field from Fournette during training camp and was not about any issues in the locker room. Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was suspended once by the Jaguars and deactivated for another game as a rookie, and he drew the ire of management for his attitude and behavior.
“At the end of the day, we feel … the skill sets of the guys that we have [can replace Fournette], and really that’s what led to the decision,” Marrone said. “And it’s been something that we’ve done it with every single position we’ve been looking at. We’ve done cutups, we’ve done tapes, we’ve gone back, we’ve looked at everything, what we’ve tried to get done. So it’s not just the running back position; it’s all positions.
“And I wanted to make sure we had the best look of, hey, what’s going on right now? That’s the best indication of what we’re going to be able to get when we start this season, and I just feel that was the best — is what’s best for our team.”
Marrone said the Jaguars tried to trade Fournette but couldn’t find any takers.
“My question was, can we get any value? And we couldn’t get any,” Marrone said. “So, fifth-[rounder], sixth-[rounder] — we couldn’t get anything.”
If Fournette clears waivers, he would become a free agent. He is due $4.17 million in salary this season if a team claims him.
The Jaguars had voided the guaranteed money in his contract after his suspension for fighting in 2018. Fournette had filed a grievance, and now that he has been waived, the grievance process will begin in earnest.
Despite Fournette’s issues, the Jaguars had relied heavily on him since he arrived. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Fournette’s 666 rushes over the past three seasons is the fifth most in the NFL behind Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon. However, according to ESPN Stats & Info numbers, Fournette had only 13 carries of 20 or more yards, and 21 players had more.
With Fournette gone, the Jaguars will rely on eight-year veteran Chris Thompson and second-year backs Devine Ozigbo (nine career carries) and Ryquell Armstead (35 career carries). New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is running a West Coast-style spread offense. Fournette’s style fits more of a power-run attack, and the team believes the other backs are a better fit in the offense.
Fournette, 25, was the first draft pick made by Tom Coughlin, the team’s former executive vice president of football operations. Coughlin wanted to build the team around a power-run game and dominant defense, and though that worked in 2017, when the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game, things didn’t always go smoothly between Fournette and the team.
He was suspended for a game during his rookie season because he left early during the bye week and skipped the team picture. He was fined numerous times for being late to or not paying attention in meetings.
Fournette didn’t completely learn the offense, and quarterback Blake Bortles regularly had to line him up in the correct spot. Even so, Fournette became just the second rookie in franchise history to rush for more than 1,000 yards, and he followed up the 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns with 242 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns in three postseason games.
Fournette’s tenure in Jacksonville took a turn in 2018, which ended up being the worst season of the former LSU star’s football life. There were injuries and a suspension, and he was on the bench in crunch time. He was fined, criticized and admittedly not in ideal shape late in the year.
The Jaguars voided the remaining guarantees in his rookie contract after his one-game suspension for fighting with Buffalo Bills linebacker Shaq Lawson, and Coughlin ripped Fournette for being “disrespectful” and “selfish” for sitting on the bench — while injured and inactive — during the season finale.
Adding to the problem, Fournette was arrested in April 2019 for driving with a suspended license.
Fournette responded in 2019 with a career season in which he topped 1,600 yards from scrimmage in 15 games, rushing 265 times for 1,152 yards and catching 76 passes for 522 yards.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.