Jaguars sign running back Leonard Fournette to rookie deal

Jaguars have a deep running back group, beat writer Mike Kaye explains

The Jaguars have signed their first-round pick to a big rookie contract.

Jacksonville selected LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.

On Wednesday, Fournette signed a four-year deal with the team. The contract has a built-in fifth-year option.

Last year's fourth overall pick, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot signed a four-year, $24.9 million deal. It came with a $16.3 million signing bonus and was almost fully guaranteed.

Fournette's deal is projected to be around $27.2 million in total value with a $17.9 million signing bonus, according to industry contract website Spotrac.

The deal is fully guaranteed and has no offset language, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

“Throughout this whole process you still have to go out there and work hard, but the only thing about it is you are working for money now,” Fournette said in a team release.

“Your mindset doesn’t have to change. Money is money, but at the end of the day, you come here to win. You come here to get better, to make the team better and make the whole foundation better. That is my main focus.”

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The 22-year-old produced 3,830 rushing yards and 40 rushing touchdowns in three seasons with the Tigers.

The 6-foot, 228-pound ball-carrier was the first running back off the board in a talented class.

Fournette ran an impressive 4.51-second forty-yard dash at 240 pounds at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He dropped 12 pounds in the weeks leading up to his pro day at LSU and impressed scouts with his workout. 

The talented running back was a workhorse when healthy for the Tigers. Jacksonville is hoping he can be a cornerstone for a running attack that struggled mightily last season.

The Jaguars ranked 24th in the league in rushing attempts, 16th in rushing yards per attempt and 22nd in rushing yards per game last season. 

The franchise wants to run the ball more effectively and Fournette is a clear part of that plan. The Jaguars' top two backs, T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, averaged an underwhelming 3.7 yards per carry last season.

Fournette will likely serve as the team's "bell cow" running back in the future. However, Ivory will likely be his tag team partner for at least the early part of next season while he adjusts to the NFL game.

“I think Leonard is going to be a great asset to our team,” General Manager Dave Caldwell said during Fournette’s introductory press conference.

“We think he’s a special player, but we also think he’s a special person.”

Fournette is the fifth member of the Jaguars' draft class to reach a deal with the team. He joins fourth-round pick Dede Westbrook, fifth-round pick Blair Brown and seventh-round picks, Jalen Myrick and Marquez Williams. 

Second-round pick Cam Robinson and third-round pick Dawuane Smoot remain unsigned. 

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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