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Leonard Fournette trade rumors: Why Jaguars would discuss dealing No. 1 RB

The Jaguars are exploring trade scenarios involving running back Leonard Fournette, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday. 

Fournette is coming off a career season with 1,674 yards from scrimmage (though just three touchdowns). He’s entering his fourth NFL season after turning 25 in January.

In keeping with a “four” theme, here’s a look at four plausible reasons why Jacksonville would look to move the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft:

RIVERA: It’s all burning down in Jacksonville

The Jaguars are trying to sell high. Fournette rushed for a career-high 1,152 yards and 4.3 yards per carry in 2019. He also became a legitimate receiving option with a team-high 76 catches, which were more than the 58 combined receptions he had in his first two NFL seasons. How many teams would make strong bids for a 1,000-yard rusher and an improving receiver? The Jags can find out by making one available.

Fournette is an economical option for other teams. Part 1A of the selling high argument is that he’ll play relatively cheaply this season. He’s scheduled to make $4.17 million in base salary ($8.6 million cap hit) in the fourth year of his rookie contract. The Jags have not committed to a fifth year and the big bump in pay that accompanies it. They have until May 4 to exercise their option, Schefter noted. They could let the contract be someone else’s concern.

The Jaguars really, really want more draft capital. Jacksonville has 12 selections at the moment, and a trade of Fournette (and, perhaps, defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, who says he wants out of Jacksonville) could get the Jags into the 15 range. That, in turn, would open up a large number of other trade possibilities as the team tries to improve quickly on last season’s 6-10 record.

Jacksonville wants to finish cleaning house. Fournette was back in the news this week after repeating his opinion that the team should explore signing free-agent quarterback Cam Newton and having him compete with incumbent starter Gardner Minshew. His 2018 season included an injury, a suspension, an encounter with a spectator and an admonishment by former Jags football boss Tom Coughlin. He was arrested in April 2019 after a traffic stop in Florida and charged with driving with a suspended license, though he was not disciplined for that. Fournette (and Ngakoue) would join a list of prominent recent Jags departures that includes Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler, Calais Campbell and Nick Foles.

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