Leonard Fournette is on the trading block and Chiefs fans are clamoring for the team to chase the former 1st round pick. The answer is no.
Almost immediately, Chiefs Kingdom began blowing up social media arguing whether or not general manager Brett Veach should make the call and trade for the former fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Further still, some NFL analysts, too, parroted the same for the Chiefs to trade for their “missing piece.” Our own contributor Sterling Holmes is for it as well and has stated his own position here.
However, the correct answer is no. The Chiefs should take a hard pass on this trade, and there are myriad reasons why Kansas City should not trade any draft capital for the workhorse back.
First, the Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl Champions. There is, subsequently, not a missing piece to the offense. In fact, there is a more than compelling argument that the Chiefs lead running back, Damien Williams, should have been the MVP of Super Bowl LIV. Williams was dynamite in the playoffs after racking up nearly 300 yards and 6 touchdowns in the three game set, including the now immortal, game-sealing touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Kansas City shouldn’t trade for Leonard Fournette because they already have a better running back.
Second, the Chiefs have plenty of talent in the running back room. If they add anyone, it should be a young draft pick with four years of club control (and a cheap contract). The Chiefs have Williams, Darrell Williams, DeAndre Washington and Darwin Thompson all pegged for the 53 man roster this year. They also have untested youngsters Mike Weber and Elijah McGuire pining for a shot. The team does not need to invest in the position, but if they do, drafting a young player with a chance to grow long term should be the goal.
Third, Kansas City has precious little draft capital. The Chiefs have 23 free agents after the 2020 season, and 12 draft picks to help fill those holes between now and the official beginning of the 2021 season. Investing a draft pick in 2020 would only secure a 24th free agent for the 2021 offseason which would be an absurd decision. The math just does not work. Assuming the Chiefs can sign 10 of those free agents, the team still has plenty of holes to fill and very few draft picks to hit them with.
Fourth, while the $4.5 million Fournette is due in 2020 is palatable, the price jumps in 2021 making it impossible (at least, irresponsible) for Kansas City to keep him any longer. Fournette does have a fifth year team option so the team would control his rights for the 2021 season, but that would come at the cost of over $10 million against the cap. Again, having so many holes to fill makes this investment irresponsible for the Chiefs. Couple that with looming massive extensions for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive lineman Chris Jones, and you’re really putting yourself in a bind financially.
Finally, Fournette is a source of repeated locker room drama, most recently with his public clamoring for the Jaguars to sign free agent quarterback Cam Newton, and subsequently alienating the team’s young starting quarterback, Gardner Minshew. The Chiefs have a great locker room by all accounts, and messing up your team chemistry in a #RunItBack year seems like a particularly troubling decision. It’s poor timing, to say the least.
Some might argue that adding a bell cow back like Fournette could be the “missing piece” for the Chiefs offense. But the Chiefs won the Super Bowl last year and it does not make sense to believe Fournette makes a repeat any more likely.
Others may argue that a $4.5 million rental is a small price to pay to take advantage of a running back as talented as Fournette in a contract year, when presumably he’d be playing for a huge pay day. Maybe so, but at what cost would it be prudent to do so? Not at the sacrifice of the dynasty you’re building for 3-4 years down the road, and that is exactly what you’re doing when you sacrifice draft picks for rentals.
There are scenarios under which the Chiefs might acquire Fournette, but not at the expense of draft picks. If the Jags offered the 20th overall pick and Fournette for Chris Jones, sure, that seems reasonable. If the Jags call asking for the 32nd overall pick, and are willing to give you the 42nd, 73rd, and Fournette, I might think about that. But under no circumstances should the Chiefs consider acquiring the Jags running back if it means making less quality selections in the draft in the foreseeable future.
There are a slew of other reasons why Kansas City should sit out the Leonard Fournette “sweepstakes.” Teams do not give up on first-round picks before their first contract is over—especially ones who’ve rushed for over 1,000 yards in two of three seasons in the league—unless there is a good reason to do so. The Chiefs should heed that as a warning and take all necessary precautions to avoid adding this player to their championship-caliber roster.