The Jacksonville Jaguars are reportedly attempting to trade running back Leonard Fournette but can’t yet seem to find any takers ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. With the draft looming, many believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers should be the team that steps up and trades for Fournette, the former LSU running back and fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Former NFL player Marcus Spears is one those many.
“I like the Pittsburgh Steelers for Leonard Fournette,” Spears said on ESPN. “I look at Pittsburgh a little different than everyone else. Obviously, Ben is coming back off the injury, but this is an offense and a franchise that has shown that they want to have a run-pass option and they do it a little bit old school. James Conner, before he got injured, was carrying the load and having a lot of success.
“They always build a formidable offensive line and I think Leonard Fournette is a very underrated player. He kinda got lost in the shuffle in Jacksonville. Has had his ups and downs, but as we heard mentioned about his success rate and what he’s brought to that offense, Pittsburgh would be a great landing spot for him. And him and James Conner could actually be a one-two punch that that could devastate people in the NFL for a lot of these teams that actually have gotten away from the physical run, but also having running backs that can do multiple things.”
While Fournette possibly landing in Pittsburgh via a trade is painted very nicely by Spears, the former NFL defensive lineman left out a lot of important factors when it comes to ultimately having such a deal come to fruition.
For starters, the Jaguars probably want more than a fifth-round selection in this year’s draft for Fournette and the Steelers currently have just one pick in the top 102 selections. Would the Jaguars take a measly fourth-round selection for Fournette? I kind of doubt it.
The next obstacle in getting Fournette to Pittsburgh is his cost and contract. Fournette is scheduled to earn $4,167,393 in 2020 and thus the Steelers would have a tough time accommodating such a price. 2020 is also scheduled to be Fournette’s final contract year, unless the Steelers immediately picked up the running back’s fifth-year option for 2021 as such a decision will be due soon. That fifth-year option amount for Fournette in 2021 is expected to be around $10 million. If the Steelers don’t pick up Fournette’s fifth-year option by the May deadline, he’ll almost certainly hit free agency in 2021 and thus wind up being a one-year rental and return whatever in the form of compensatory draft pick value, which isn’t likely to be a lot.
Oh, and what about Fournette’s durability? After all, a lot of people are ready for the Steelers to move on from running back James Conner due to games his missed so far during his career due to injuries. Fournette, in case you didn’t know it, has missed one more game than Conner has due to injuries in his first three seasons in the NFL. Do the Steelers really want to buy a $4 million raffle ticket to find out if Fournette can play in at least 15 games in 2020? I kind of doubt it.
Lastly, Fournette’s successful run rate through three regular seasons is just 46.1% and that’s not great at all. In case you’re curious, Conner’s successful run rate to date is 50.3%.
After reading all of the above you’re still convinced that Fournette should be a member of the Steelers, you’re best bet is to hope that the Jaguars will be willing to deal him and eat at least half of his $4,167,393 2020 salary in exchange for a fourth-round or later selection. Even better, Fournette’s best chance at landing in Pittsburgh would likely include the Jaguars cutting him outright and him signing a supercheap two-year contract with the Steelers. Unless that last option happens, I’m personally hoping that the Steelers stay far away from Fournette this summer.