2019-01-02 by W.M.
NFL Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Leonard Fournette’s Future, Antonio Brown | Bleacher Report
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
The 2018 NFL regular season is barely over, but there are already numerous rumors about the teams that haven’t made the postseason. Many of these rumors could have a significant impact on the 2019 offseason and beyond.
Naturally, a lot of the buzz has to do with the head-coaching carousel. One-fourth of the league is looking for a new man in charge.
Andrew Siciliano @AndrewSiciliano
8 @NFL teams OFFICIALLY looking for new head coaches:
However, some of the rumored storylines have to do with players, and notable ones at that. The futures of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette appear a bit more uncertain than they did just a week ago. We’re here to examine why.
Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars used the No. 4 overall draft pick on former LSU running back Leonard Fournette. The idea was that Fournette would complement Jacksonville’s physical defense with his hard-nosed running style while also taking pressure off quarterback Blake Bortles.
That plan hasn’t exactly worked out, and it looks worse in retrospect since Jacksonville passed on quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to get Fournette.
Fournette had a strong rookie season, rushing for 1,040 yards and pounding opposing defenses all the way to the AFC title game. However, he struggled along with the rest of the Jaguars team this year. Injuries robbed him of nearly half the season, he was suspended a game for fighting and he angered vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin with his disinterest in the season finale.
“I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette,” Coughlin said, per Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com. “They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.”
Now the Jaguars could be on the verge of parting with Fournette.
Head coach Doug Marrone recently announced that Jacksonville voided the guaranteed portion of Fournette’s rookie contract. This is only going to anger the running back, and it only really makes sense if the Jaguars plan to release him sooner than later.
Taking away money, after all, isn’t the best motivational tactic.
The Jaguars are leaning on Fournette’s suspension as the reason to void his guarantees. Marc Long of the Associated Press reported that the team notified Fournette of this weeks ago.
We’re now likely to see Fournette and members of the player’s union argue that the collective bargaining agreement will protect Fournette’s guarantees in this case. Things could get ugly quickly, and it’s hard to see the two sides working amicably in 2019.
Like the Jaguars, Pittsburgh missed the postseason this year. They needed a win and a Baltimore Ravens loss to get in, and they still didn’t start star wide receiver Antonio Brown in Week 17.
Brown had been dealing with a knee injury, but the knee injury had nothing to do with his absence, according to Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“Several sources said the Steelers’ decision to not play Brown against the Bengals had nothing to do with any type of knee injury. The disagreement occurred Wednesday morning during a routine walk-through practice that precedes their regular afternoon practice on the South Side. Brown was disgusted and threw a football in Roethlisberger’s direction, several sources said.
“After that, Brown did not practice the rest of the week. According to a source, it was Brown’s decision not to practice with his teammates.”
It’s unclear what prompted the disagreement with Roethlisberger remains unclear. It also remains unclear why Brown then refused to practice with teammates the rest of the week. It’s clear, however, why this behavior would prompt Pittsburgh to sit their star pass-catcher.
Brown decided not to stick around for the rest of the game.
Andrew Siciliano @AndrewSiciliano
Great detail from @AKinkhabwala @nflnetwork on the Antonio Brown story. Jersey was ready in his locker, teammates expected him to play, never even took the field, left at halftime.
Unlike Fournette, Brown probably isn’t going to be let go because of this incident. However, it does hint at the kind of discord in the Steelers locker room that seems to plague the team with some regularity.
If this continues into the 2019 offseason, the Steelers could be approaching a season that implodes as soon as things start going wrong.