While it was reported that Leonard Fournette was on the trading block, the Buffalo Bills should avoid the temptation of trading for the former first round pick running back.
There is plenty of reasons to think that the Bills would be interested in Fournette. The team entered this offseason looking for a running back to pair with Devin Singletary in their backfield. The hope was they could find a big, powerful running back that can move the chains between the tackles and compliment the big play ability of Singletary.
Leonard Fournette is exactly that at 6’0″ and 228 pounds and has been a workhorse for the Jaguars offense since the team selected him fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has broken the 1,000 rushing yard mark two out of his three years in the NFL, with him missing that total in 2018 when he played in only eight games.
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Financially it also isn’t a huge commitment with him entering the final year of his rookie deal and has a base salary of $4,167,388 this season.
While the decision of the Bills making a trade is ultimately going to come down to compensation and what the Jaguars hope to get, the front office should avoid the temptation of even picking up the phone.
If the Buffalo Bills were going to trade for Leonard Fournette, they will need to make some major decisions that will have long term impacts in relative short order. If the Bills were to trade for Fournette, they would need to decide in the next month whether or not to pick up his fifth year option. This would mean they need to make that decision likely without seeing him in person or in any kind of practice setting.
The other option would be to not pick up the fifth year option, wait until closer to the season, or even during the season, and try to work out a long term contract extension. However, in recent years the NFL has seen running backs get extensions past their rookie deals, like Todd Gurley and David Johnson, who have struggled to continue their performance.
Leonard Fournette has already carried the ball 666 times in the NFL, on top of 616 carries during his LSU days. This is a substantial workload for a running back that has injury concerns and has yet to play a full 16 game schedule in the NFL.
If the Bills were to make a trade for Leonard Fournette, it also means that they would not be able to capitalize on what is regarded as a deep running back class in this year’s NFL Draft. There is a chance that a player like Jonathan Taylor or J.K. Dobbins is there in the second round, or waiting even later and getting a Zack Moss or A.J. Dillon.
By drafting a running back this week, the Bills would be getting a running back that is under contract for four years, where Fournette at best is considered a one-year rental, and one that doesn’t have the wear and tear of the Jag’s running back.
There is a logical thought process in why the Buffalo Bills would want to trade for Leonard Fournette. At this point, it likely wouldn’t require substantial draft capital and there isn’t long term commitment initially based on the contract. However, for a deal to make sense, the Bills would have to be comfortable picking up the fifth year option and after that might have to work out a long term deal.
Whereas if the Bills were to draft a running back, they could find a younger player, with less wear and tear in addition to being at a lower salary over the next four years. The idea of going to get Leonard Fournette would certainly make a splash but in terms of building sustained long term success, the Bills need to address the running back position through this week’s NFL Draft.