Fournette, Antonio Brown called Tampa Bay ‘Last Chance U’

Leonard Fournette is back with the Buccaneers after he agreed to a one-year deal, the team announced on Wednesday.

According to espn.com, the deal is worth $3.25 million with incentives that would push it to $4 million.

In his first season with Tampa Bay in 2020, Fournette appeared in 13 regular-season games, making three starts. He rushed 97 times for 367 yards and six touchdowns while adding 36 receptions for 233 yards in the passing game.

The 26-year-old Fournette returns to Tampa Bay for a second season after helping the team win Super Bowl LV. 

The five-year veteran came to the Buccaneers after he was released by the Jaguars last summer.

Like Fournette, Antonio Brown’s career was in trouble before he joined Tampa Bay in October after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The 11-year veteran played in only one game in 2019 after the Raiders and Patriots released him. 

According to Fournette, he and Brown looked at the Buccaneers as “Last Chance U.”

“I used to try to make a joke out of it,” Fournette said. “I used to tell AB, ‘this sh** feel like Last Chance U.’ We can’t mess up. We on our second go round and things like that. He used to be like, ‘you know what, you gotta look at it like that…’ I think those conversations it carried me a long way throughout the season. We talked every day about it.”

For the 32-year-old Brown, it was “Last Chance U.” If he messed up, his career was probably over. As for Fournette, due to his age, he would have gotten another shot. However, nothing was guaranteed.

Fortunately, for the Buccaneers, Fournette, and Brown, things worked out. Fournette is back, and we’ll see if Brown will join him.

Fournette talks similarities between 2017 Jaguars, 2020 Buccaneers

In 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars went 10-6 and made it all the way to the AFC title game before falling to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette, a rookie on that Jaguars’ team in 2017, has not been back to the playoffs since that season. 

In the 2017 AFC title game, Jacksonville was up 20-10 in the fourth quarter, but Brady would hit Danny Amendola late in the game to secure a 24-20 victory for the Patriots. 

According to Fournette, there are some similarities between the 2017 Jaguars and the 2020 Buccaneers. Fortunately for the fourth-year running back, Brady will be on his side when he returns to the playoffs.

“Similar. The talent [aspect] is off the charts,” Fournette recently said. “This time around, I’m not going against Tom Brady – he’s on my team – so that’s a good thing. Second of all, I just think a lot of guys on our team have been to the playoffs, and we know what it takes. You have to lock in. Not saying it’s not possible, but you have to be perfect in practices now. The little things usually you get by with during the season, you can’t really do that. You have to run your routes at depth [and] block your guys. Everything is on the line. It’s just doing everything right and helping out my guys in my room and also other players on the team just to get better as a whole. I know we’re going to need everyone – all hands in – to go to the Super Bowl.”

The 2017 Jaguars had more talent on the defensive side of the ball than this version of the Buccaneers. On defense, Jacksonville was led by Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Calais Campbell, while the 2020 Buccaneers have a lot more talent on offensive side of the ball, and of course, they have Brady.

However, the expectations are different. No one expected the Blake Bortles led Jaguars to make a long playoff run. In contrast, this Buccaneers team was put together to win right now, and anything short of that would be a disappointment. 

Hopefully, for Fournette, Brady and the Buccaneers can do what he did for the Patriots in 2017 and lead Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2002 season.

Brady on Jones: ‘I have a lot of confidence in him’

It’s been a tough week for Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones. The third-year back, who fractured his pinky finger against Minnesota last Sunday, had surgery on Tuesday to repair the finger.

On Wednesday, Jones was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. At this time, his status for Tampa Bay’s game against the Falcons is uncertain. 

Jones has played well for Tampa Bay this season. In 13 games, he has career-highs yards(900), yards per carry(5.0), and tied his career-high with six rushing touchdowns. At this point of the season, Jones has gained the confidence of Tom Brady. 

“I think, first of all, we’re all thinking about ‘Ro,'” Brady said about Jones on Thursday. “Obviously, a tough week for him when you have an injury, and then you have something that comes up with COVID. He’s been so reliable, dependable [and] consistent for us. Even in the offseason, his commitment to making improvements to his game, and I think everyone has a great deal of respect for ‘Ro’ and what he’s brought to the team. For a young player, he’s shown a lot of maturity – he’s very selfless. I love when he’s in the backfield with us, and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Without Jones, Brady will have to depend on Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, which still gives Brady confidence.

I have a lot of confidence in the other backs,” Brady said. “Leonard [Fournette] has played a lot [and] done a lot of great things, ‘Shady’ (LeSean McCoy) has done a great job, Ke’Shawn [Vaughn] has done a great job when he’s been in there. We have a really talented backfield, and we just have to continue to find ways to use them all so they can all be productive.”

Brady is right. Tampa Bay has a lot of depth at the running back position, which should come in handy if Tampa Bay is without Jones on Sunday and beyond.

Fournette has a great opportunity in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially signed former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, the team announced on Sunday.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a one-year deal with a $2 million base salary and max value of $3.5 million.

The former number four overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft comes to Tampa Bay after spending three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19). In 2019, Fournette racked up 1,674 all-purpose yards, which ranked sixth in the NFL among all players and fifth among running backs. He also ranked sixth in rushing, with a career-best 1,152 yards, marking the second time he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in the past three seasons. Fournette’s 76 receptions and 522 receiving yards a year ago each ranked fifth among running backs.

There have been some reports about teammates not wanting to play with Fournette in Jacksonville, and according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, before the team released Fournette, the Jaguars were looking to deal him, but with the Buccaneers, Fournette will be playing with Tom Brady, who brings instant respect. In 2017, Jacksonville made it to the AFC title game before losing to Brady and the Patriots, and Fournette was a big part of Jacksonville’s success that season.

Tampa Bay adds the 25-year-old Fournette to a backfield that includes Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy. They also add Fournette to an offense that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. It should be interesting to see how the Buccaneers will use Fournette. Still, no matter how they use him, the Buccaneers are getting a talented football player, who will try to put himself in a position to get a big contract when he becomes a free agent at season’s end. 

Tampa Bay will give Fournette a chance to win again, and hopefully, for him, change the narrative.

Jags’ Thompson on when Fournette told team he was released: ‘We thought he was joking’

During his time in Jacksonville, the one thing we learned about RB Leonard Fournette is he liked to have fun, and he told the Jacksonville media this back in August:

“Most of you guys know I’m always joking and playing, that’s just me,” Fournette said. “I think it kind of got out of hand, so I just wanted to get that out there. I’m not a jerk, but when it comes to football and winning, I’m all in for that.”

So, when Fournette told the team that he had been released on Monday, according to Jaguars RB Chris Thompson, no one believed him.

“Yeah, we were shocked about it,” Thompson said about Fournette getting released via a video call on Tuesday. “He came in the room a couple of minutes before our team meeting and let us know that he had gotten released. We didn’t believe it. We thought he was joking because, you know, he laughs and jokes with us all the time. It wasn’t really until [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone said it in the team meeting that we really believed it. It was a shocker for everybody. The mood was just different that day, or different yesterday at practice, but you know, it’s the NFL, and we just have to rock with the decision that’s being made.”

No Fournette means opportunities for others, including the seventh-year veteran Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Nathan Cottrell, and James Robinson. On Tuesday, Thompson, who spent time in OC Jay Gruden’s offense while in Washington, assessed Jacksonville’s running back room.

“In my opinion, I think they can do a little bit of everything,” he said. “They’re good pass catchers. They can run routes pretty good, and their vision is amazing, especially James [Robinson]. I think he’s one of those guys to me, in my opinion, [that] probably has the best vision out of all of us and it’s been great to see a young guy like that be able to come in and be able to make the plays and hit the holes that he’s been able to hit. I’m excited. I’m excited for all [of] the guys. Nate [Nathan Cottrell], he’s the fastest running back that we have right now, so I’m excited for him and his future. Ryquell [Armstead] and Zig [Devine Ozigbo], they’re both guys that were here last year and now with Leonard [Fournette] not being here, they’re going to be able to get a lot more opportunities. From what I saw, from what Rock [Ryquell Armstead] did last year and Zig, especially in that last game against the Colts, I think they have a lot of potential [that] we’re going to see here moving forward.”

Running backs coach Terry Robiskie added this about the team’s running backs: “It looks young, it looks young. It looks energetic, it looks like a bunch of fresh guys, just a bunch of big-eyed guys that [are] looking at the goal, [they] just want an opportunity, they want an opportunity. I think they feel the opportunity is there. A group of guys that [are] ready to go meet the challenge, go prove themselves. Like I said, everybody in life wants an opportunity. I’ve got a group of guys that [have] got a shot, they’ve got an opportunity here and it’s right before them.”

The release of Fournette was surprising, but it was not very shocking. Jacksonville had been looking to trade Fournette for some time, but the timing surprised many, and now it’s up to others to make things happen without Fournette.

Jags’ Marrone on if team is tanking: ‘I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we have the best team to win’

In a move that shocked many around the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars waived RB Leonard Fournette on Monday. The fourth-year player, who was the fourth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and whose fifth-year option was declined by the team in May, was rumored to be on the trading block this spring, but ultimately, according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, there were no takers.

“My question was, ‘Can we get any value?’ and [the answer] it was we couldn’t get any,” Marrone said via a video call on Monday. “Fifth, sixth [round picks], we couldn’t get anything.”

As a rookie, in 2017, Fournette rushed for 1040 yards and nine rushing touchdowns and helped Jacksonville make it to the AFC title game. In 2018, Fournette struggled with injuries and was fined(later overturned) by then team president Tom Coughlin after Fournette, who was inactive due to an ankle injury in the season finale, sat on the bench. However, in 2019, Fournette had career-highs in rushing yards(1152), receptions(76), and receiving yards(522). Now, without Fournette, the Jaguars will turn to Ryquell Armstead and Chris Thompson, and Marrone feels those guys can help Jacksonville more than Fournette could in 2020.

“I just feel like [with] the skill set of the guys that we have being used the right way, [they] will be able to give us more production and give us a better opportunity to win games,” Marrone said. “That’s exactly what I feel and exactly what I’ve seen on tape.”

Some might believe Jacksonville could be tanking after waiving the 25-year-old Fournette. However, Marrone said that is not the case.

“I can’t speak for anyone like I said I’m not going to speak for anyone else,” he said. “But if that’s the case(tanking), then the realization is that if that happens, I’m not going to be here. Right? At the end of the day, if I don’t win enough games or do enough with this team, I don’t foresee me still being employed. So I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we have the best team to win football games. I mean that’s as simple as I can be on it.”

Marrone is right. Jacksonville does need to win for him to keep his job. I don’t think Jacksonville is tanking, but it’s clear they wanted to get Fournette out of their locker room. He was the best running back on Jacksonville’s roster, so this is a move, according to Jacksonville, that is addition by subtraction. 

Jags’ Allen: ‘I really do believe Leonard(Fournette) is one of the best backs in the NFL’

There is a lot on the line for Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette in 2020. Because the team declined his fifth-year option, the 25-year-old Fournette can be a restricted free agent at season’s end. Therefore, if he continues to play well, he can put himself in a position to make a decent amount of money in the offseason.

In 2019, Fournette set a career-high in rushing yards(1152), receptions(76), and receiving yards(522). However, in the offseason, there were reports that the team wanted to trade him. Ultimately, the team did not move Fournette.

The fourth-year running back has respect among his teammates, and according to Jaguars LB Josh Allen, Fournette is one of the best backs in football.

“I really do believe Leonard is one of the best backs in the NFL, personally,” Allen said via a video call on Monday. “This year, I really got to be able to connect with him off the field and know what type of person he is, not just player, but person. He’s changed a lot in my eyes, just being to talk to him more. We talk about life, family, and literally football every time we talk. He’s really a great person. I know he gets perceived as one of those bad words, but Leonard is a guy that’s growing.

“He’s growing in his career, growing off the field. As a football player, on the field going against him, I kind of hate it. He is a really big back who is explosive, who catches the ball, who runs really great routes, who blocks in protection extremely well. He’s just one of those really versatile running backs that’s going to be a nightmare in the league for a very long time.”

In reality, the Jaguars don’t have the success they did in 2017 without Fournette’s production. Jacksonville made it to the AFC title game that season. While some may question his attitude, you’re not going to find many running backs as good as Fournette. Also, a best friend for any quarterback is a running game, and with Fournette, Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew has a dependable running back. Like all NFL players, Fournette wants to get paid, and for that to happen, he must have another strong season.

 

Jags’ Fournette talks Cam Newton, Minshew

Back in April, Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette made it known on social media and ESPN that he wanted the Jaguars to sign then free-agent QB Cam Newton after Carolina released Newton. Fournette’s comments made waves because Jacksonville had pretty much committed to Gardner Minshew as their quarterback after they traded Nick Foles to Chicago.

Here’s what Fournette told ESPN’s First Take about Newton back in April:

“Cam went to the Super Bowl,” Fournette said during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” on Thursday. “He’s a great guy. I’ve been knowing Cam for a minute now. And like I told some people that talked to me, it’s no disrespect to (Gardner) Minshew. I’m just trying to get into the best position as a team so that we can win. That’s all that was about. Just a friendly competition because that brings out the best in people.”

On Monday, Fournette explained his comments.

“I talked to Gardner [Minshew] during the whole thing that they made it a big deal when I asked for Cam [Newton], and he understood where I was coming from,” Fournette said. “At the end of the day, I want to win. Who doesn’t want to win?

“I came from a 2017 season with a team who was 10-6, we had talent level and then the next couple of years went down the drain. So, I just want to address a lot of things, too, especially since the media came out and said I was an angry guy. Number one, would you be angry if you’re losing week in and week out? That is one of my biggest problems, I do get upset when we lose, and it takes me a while to get over it. I expect, just like anybody else, if you put the work in, you want the W, but a lot of times last year it didn’t go like that. I guess they kind of misinterpreted that, and don’t get me wrong, I was upset from the losing, but that’s just the winner in me. That’s any guy who plays this “”professional level of sports.”

When asked if he noticed anything different about Minshew, Fournette had this to say:

“His hair got long. He’s got a little more toned, most definitely he kind of defined his body out over the workouts he did in the summer so like I said we’ll see how everything comes together once the season comes.”

The 31-year-old Newton signed with the Patriots in July. At this point, after struggling with a shoulder and foot injury, Newton is seemingly healthy. Additionally, Newton, who won the league MVP and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015, will be very motivated to play well so he can get another big contract. When healthy, there are not many quarterbacks as talented as Newton, so you understand why Fournette would want him in Jacksonville.  

Minshew, 24, had an outstanding rookie season. Among rookies quarterbacks, Minshew was second in passing yards(3271), second in touchdown passes(21), and first in wins(6), so he showed a lot of promise. In the short term, yes, Newton might have been the better option. However, some believe he is done. In the long run, Minshew, if he has the goods, could be the team’s franchise quarterback for years to come.  

By season’s end, we will probably know if Jacksonville made the right decision at quarterback, but at this moment, the debate continues. 

Marrone: ‘I think Leonard(Fournette) did everything that we wanted him to do’

There were not many bright spots for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019. The team suffered its second straight losing season, but one guy who played well in 2019 was RB Leonard Fournette.

The third-year running back set career-highs in rushing yards(1,152 yards), yard per carry(4.3), receptions(76), and receiving yards(522) in 2019. But, he only had three rushing touchdowns last season.

However, according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, Fournette did everything the Jaguars needed him to do last season. 

“I think Leonard did everything that we wanted him to do – you talk about a workhorse,” Marrone said on Tuesday at the NFL Combine. “A guy that carried the load, a guy that had a ton of receptions. He did a lot of great things for us coming out of the backfield; his protection was probably one of the things he did a heck of a job on this year.

“Unfortunately it was not just Leonard [who didn’t score a lot], I think it was everyone, we didn’t get into the end zone enough. I think as we get better around ourselves and the players and we get better in the year coming … I think we have to do a better job coaching-wise situationally in the red zone to score those touchdowns, and I think they will come.”

The Jaguars will have a decision to make about Fournette’s contract. The 25-year-old Fournette, who was fourth overall pick in 2017 NFL Draft, is eligible for a fifth-year option, which would add an extra year to his four-year contract, or maybe they can sign him to an extension. Regarding that fifth-year option, Jacksonville won’t have to make that decision until May.

According to Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell, the team had not even thought about what they are going to do with Fournette.

“I think our vision right now is we have free agency, we have the draft, and we have the fifth-year option,” Caldwell said. “Any extensions and stuff like that with other players, I think, will take place whether it is after the draft or when we decide that. I think one step at a time right now, and that is free agency.”

It should be interesting to see what Jacksonville will do, but one thing for sure, Fournette will probably be a big part of Jacksonville’s success in 2020.

Fournette: ‘There are days that I am upset, mad as hell, but just trying to finish the season on a positive note’

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have had their worst performance of the season  after getting thumped by the visiting Chargers(5-8) 45-10 on Sunday. 

After the Jaguars went up 3-0 in the first quarter, the Chargers would score the next 31 points. Los Angeles QB Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns and RB Austin Ekeler rushed for 101 yards and had 112 receiving yards and a touchdown in the contest. 

“Like I told the players, obviously I’m responsible for wins and losses, so that’s on me and we made too many mistakes,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said after the game. “There were mistakes all over the place. That goes on coaches and players and everyone, so we’ve got to take a good look. We’ve got three games left, and no one is coming to help us.”

Even though the jaguars are 4-9, and currently on a five-game losing streak, RB Leonard Fournette is trying to do everything in his power to stay positive.

“It’s tough when you have days that you come in angry, and you don’t feel like practicing or being in meetings, but you just got to choke it up,” Fournette said. “That’s all I can say. That’s what I do. Don’t get me wrong, there are days that I am upset, mad as hell, but just trying to finish the season on a positive note.

“If that’s coming in and try to spark some energy for the team during the week, just getting prepared for the game, whatever it takes,” Fournette continued. “It’s hard. Once again, you have to try to put your emotions to the side, also your pride too because we are all men in here. I know as far as for me, I hate losing, so it’s difficult for me to come in here and fake it like everything is all good when it’s not.

“I think it’s a part of growing too. I think I’ve been trying to do a good job of that this whole year, just showing my team that no matter what goes on, I still care for them, and just trying to be the leader I know I can be through going through tough times. I have to put my pride to the side sometimes just to get the results that I need out of my team. It’s probably just growing pains at the same time.”

The Jaguars have three games left, but based on what happened this season and their performance against the Chargers on Sunday, there will probably be a lot of changes in 2020.