Leonard Fournette’s time in Jacksonville appeared to be nearing a possible end last month, but now that April showers have brought May flowers, everything is dandy in Duval.
Fournette is expected by the Jaguars to be on the team in 2020, Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell told Pro Football Talk on Monday during an appearance on the site’s podcast.
"To be honest with you, there were just some minor discussions with that but nothing substantial throughout the draft or prior to the draft," Caldwell said during his appearance on the PFT PM podcast. "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 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."
Fournette’s offseason has been intriguing. The running back racked up 1,152 yards on 265 carries and also enjoyed a breakout year in the passing-catching department, hauling in 76 receptions for 522 yards. Jacksonville finished with six wins, including a 38-20 thrashing of Indianapolis in a meaningless Week 17 finale — a game in which Fournette did not play.
Strangely enough, 2019 was Fournette’s best season as a pro. It was also his most irrelevant season, as his Jaguars officially fell out of the national conversation thanks to a second-half skid that included six losses in the team’s final eight games.
The best headlines from Jacksonville were about the team’s mustachioed backup quarterback, the players’ displeasure with and ultimate departure of EVP Tom Coughlin, and the many notable names being shipped elsewhere as the Jaguars clearly needed to retool.
Fournette was nearly one of those names, or so it seemed. The rumor mill heated up in the weeks leading up to the draft, with Fournette’s name repeatedly appearing in trade discussions. He was a player selected by a regime that no longer existed (or at least no longer included its figurehead in Coughlin) and he didn’t quite seem to fit where Jacksonville was headed, so a trade was definitely plausible.
Jacksonville’s decision to decline Fournette’s fifth-year option only made such an outcome appear more likely. Fournette’s pitch to bring Cam Newton to Jacksonville to push teammate Gardner Minshew — a fan favorite of sorts, even if his potential for success is still largely unknown — didn’t help his cause, either
"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 of Fournette’s and Minshew’s relationship. "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."
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One would hope so. Jacksonville is very much in an unknown territory at this point, with the potential to be competitive, and also a chance to be quite bad if things fail in a number of areas. The expectations aren’t high, though, and even with a coach who’s presumably on the hot seat, Caldwell likes what his team has accomplished so far in 2020.
"We can still build this thing and compete at a high level and let the chips fall where they may," Caldwell said. "I think what we did was we cleaned up the salary cap. We’re in a great working situation with the salary cap not only this year but next year, and also felt like we’ve gotten better from the 6-10 team we had last year or the 5-11 team.
"Although there were a lot of household names that people recognized nationally, the product on the field wasn’t where it needed to be. I would say competing. I would say competing and building for something that can compete this year."
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