Jacksonville Jaguars fans were disappointed when the team traded away All Pro cornerback A.J. Bouye to the Denver Broncos in March.
They were saddened when five-time All Pro defensive end Calais Campbell was traded to Baltimore a week later.
The loss of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, another All Pro player, last month was expected since he refused to sign a $17.8 million tender offer and vowed to skip the season if he wasn’t traded. The Jaguars eventually relented, send him to Minnesota for a couple of future draft picks.
But when running back Leonard Fournette was put on waivers less than 24 hours later, everyone, including several players, now wonders when the fire sale will end.
More important, will the deals make Jacksonville better and lead to more victories?
Head coach Doug Marrone, whose job is dependent on a considerable improvement compared to last year’s 6-10 record, believes the change in culture will offset the loss of talent.
“Well, I think what happened was, I tried to challenge everyone; coaches, scouts,” Marrone said as the Jaguars continued their preparation for a Sept. 13 regular season opener against Indianapolis at TIAA Bank Field. “That we were going to look at what we’ve been doing now in practice, not knowing how the players are going to come back, not knowing really who we had, not really having a lot of experience to them. We were going to have to make good decisions on what’s best for the team.
“Let’s not go ahead and say because someone did something before, maybe we’ll get the same type of results, or things [of that nature]. Really just trying to take the team and put the best team together for what we’ve seen in our practices.”
Fournette, the fourth overall pick of the 2017 Draft. While he’s shown tremendous bursts of excellence, including a 225-yard effort at Denver last year, he’s also been troublesome. After reporting to camp overweight, he missed seven games in 2018 with an assortment of injuries, and he was suspended for another game after he threw of punch at Buffalo Bills defender Shaq Lawson in a bench-clearing brawl.
Fournette went unclaimed on waivers to officially become a free agent. On Tuesday, he filed a grievance against the Jaguars to recoup more than $4 million that was voided by his release.
Jacksonville now plans to use a committee of running backs, Marrone said.
Chris Thompson, a fifth-round pick by Washington in 2019, is the only running back with significant experience. Devin Ozigbo, Ryquell Armstead and rookies James Robinson and Nathan Cottrell are expected to share the load.
“Committee is a word that people use out there,” the coach said. “I think that we have guys that have really good skill sets, that have really had good camps. I think now we’re able to hone in on that and really work on that. I think you see that was a big reason why. When people say, ‘Why now?’ I think that’s why so now we can hone that in, get that thing right for us going into this year.”
Added with the departures of quarterback Blake Bortles and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the newest wave to trades and releases continues a trend to move further away from the Tom Coughlin era.
Coughlin helped build the team that made it to the 2017 AFC Championship against New England, but his brand of discipline was counterproductive to modern-day athletes.
Although owner Shad Khan fired Coughlin, who was serving as the vice president of football operations, in the final month of the 2019 season.
Marrone said since his job depends on wins, he’s more concerned about finding a winning formula that worrying about the past.
“I can’t really right or really jump in and tell someone else what to think or what to do. I think the best way to probably approach it, with obviously not having thought a lot about being able to present this, is I would like to just tell you what my role is,” he said. “My role is [to] put the best guys I can together as a team, same way I’ve been talking to the players since the beginning. At the end of the day, it’s going to fall to me [on] who those best players are and how we want to play and what we want to do.
“So at the end of the day, I’ve got to be able to field a team that I believe gives us the best chance to win and that’s what my role is and that’s what I’m doing.”
Even if he has to do it without four of his top players.