Jaguars GM: 'Going to Go Forward' with Leonard Fournette After Trade Rumors

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 5, 2020

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Leonard Fournette will start the 2020 season right where he left off in 2019—as the lead tailback in the Jacksonville Jaguars offense.

Until now that's seemed rather unlikely as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the team was looking to trade the 2017 first-round pick, and Schefter reported the team declined the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. 

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell confirmed the team will stick with Fournette during an appearance on the Pro Football Talk podcast.

"There were just some minor discussions with that but nothing substantial throughout the draft or prior to the draft," Caldwell said, per PFT's Mike Florio. "I think the mindset is that we're going to go forward with Leonard on the team. I had a good talk with him on Friday. I know Coach [Doug] Marrone has had some discussion with him. He seems to be in great shape and mental frame of mind, and we feel that he'll have a great season this year."

It's been a rough three seasons in the NFL for Fournette. 

After coming into the league as the No. 4 pick with some injury concerns, there were huge expectations levied on him that haven't exactly been met. He's topped 1,000 yards rushing twice already, but hasn't earned a trip to the Pro Bowl or helped the Jags become a perennial contender in an AFC South that's been there for the taking.

Instead, the team has made the playoffs just once in the Fournette era, getting bounced in the AFC Championship by the New England Patriots in his rookie year. 

As Jacksonville transitions to a new offense under incoming coordinator Jay Gruden, it's not clear Fournette's bruising style translates as much as the team would like. 

Marrone is now in the position of needing to get the most out of a running back the team has publicly tried to get rid of, to say nothing of a quarterback in Gardner Minshew II who is still trying to prove himself. 

"I'm sure they'll be on the same page. They're both professional guys, and I'm sure a lot of it was taken out of context from my understanding," Caldwell said. "Gardner's a tremendous leader and I think Leonard will do his best and put his best foot forward I don't, to my knowledge, I don't know what's taken place but I'm sure it won't be an issue."

In any case, Fournette will need to look out for himself as he enters a contract year. The impending free agent will need to prove that he can work in any offense as a lead running back if he hopes to sign a long-term deal next spring.