Thursday, July 25, 2024

Leonard Fournette landing spots: Cowboys among logical destinations as veteran RB looks to continue NFL career

Leonard Fournette is not ready to put his NFL career in the rearview mirror quite yet. The veteran running back is motivated to continue playing and intends to sign with a team before the season, according to ESPN. To further that effort, Fournette has hired his former agents Ari Nissim and Pat Capra of Legend Agency. 

“Leonard’s in the best shape of his career and I expect he will have a new home soon,” Nissim said.

Fournette initially put himself on the NFL radar, thanks to a sensational career at LSU where he was a two-time All-SEC player and a consensus All-American in 2015. That paved the way for him to be selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 4 overall pick in 2017. He put together two 1,000-yard seasons during his three-year stint with the Jags before being waived by the organization in the summer of 2020. Fournette then jumped aboard with the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who’d go on to win Super Bowl LV. During that run, Fournette earned the nickname “Playoff Lenny” after scoring touchdowns in all four of Tampa Bay’s postseason matchups. 

After two more seasons in Tampa Bay, the Bucs waived Fournette in March of 2023, and that’s where his career has hit a speed bump. The 29-year-old remained unsigned through the first couple of months of last season before latching on with the Buffalo Bills practice squad. He spent most of the year with the unit, but was elevated to the active roster for the club’s Week 16 matchup against the Chargers. In two games played last year, Fournette tallied 40 yards on 12 carries. 

As Fournette looks to continue his career, let’s take a look at a trio of potential landing spots for the veteran. 

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas’ backfield could use some depth in the aftermath of losing Tony Pollard in free agency earlier this offseason. The club did bring back Ezekiel Elliott to give themselves a familiar option, but Zeke shouldn’t be looked at as the same player he was during the bulk of his first stint with the organization. Beyond Elliott, the Cowboys have Rico Dowdle, Royce Freeman, Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis, Snoop Conner and Nathaniel Peat on the running back depth chart. Not exactly a Murderer’s Row. While Fournette isn’t the same player he once was, he’d provide them a cheap option that raises the backfield’s floor. 

New England Patriots

The Patriots had shown interest in Fournette in the past, but the two sides were never able to sync up. While Bill Belichick is no longer running the front office, there are still some of the same faces within the building from that tenure, so it’s safe to wonder if there is still an affinity for Fournette at 1 Patriot Place. As for the roster, New England has Rhamondre Stevenson, who is slated to take on the lion’s share of the touches. Beyond him, Antonio Gibson, JaMycal Hasty and Kevin Harris headline the rest of the backfield depth. Fournette does feel like someone who could be an insurance option for Stevenson as he is a proven pass catcher out of the backfield along with being a between-the-tackles runner. 

Indianapolis Colts

When he’s healthy, the Colts have one of the most talented running backs in the NFL in Jonathan Taylor. That said, Taylor has battled injuries several times throughout his career, including being held to 10 games played in 2023. What helped keep Indy’s rushing attack afloat was the presence of Zack Moss, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had nearly 1,000 scrimmage yards for the Colts last year. Moss has since signed with the Bengals and the depth behind Taylor isn’t exactly solid with Trey Sermon and Evan Hull being the next two up on the roster. Fournette could come in as an experienced backup to Taylor and be a nice insurance piece if he were to miss any time again. 

Los Angeles Chargers

If you look quickly at this running back depth chart, you’d think you’re looking at the Ravens backfield when in reality it’s the Chargers. This offseason, the club parted ways with Austin Ekeler, and new head coach Jim Harbaugh elected to bring in both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, formerly of his brother’s team in Baltimore. L.A. also has sixth-round rookie Kimani Vidal and Isaiah Spiller among other backs on the 90-man offseason depth chart. None of those backs has a particularly high ceiling, and both Dobbins and Edwards have both struggled to remain on the field throughout their careers. Again, Fournette shouldn’t be factored in as the 1,000-yard rusher he once was, but he’d be an option for the Chargers to deepen their unit if Dobbins and/or Edwards miss time.

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