Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will sit out Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts after his appeal of a one-game suspension was denied.
He will be eligible to return to the team’s active roster Monday. Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon are expected to shoulder the load in the backfield against the Colts.
Fournette was suspended one game following a fight with Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson on Sunday. Both players were ejected, though Fournette was the only player disciplined by the league for leaving the sideline and punching Lawson after running across the field.
Former NFL wide receiver James Thrash, who was appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association to hear the appeal, upheld the decision.
The suspension will also cost Fournette close to $10,000 in pay, but could ultimately prove to be far more costly.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Tuesday that multiple league sources say Fournette’s contract contains “sufficient language to support an argument that the suspension voids the remaining guarantees in Fournette’s four-year rookie contract, wiping out a $7 million obligation that extends over 2019 and 2020.”
According to the report, Jacksonville can bring Fournette back for the 2019 season at the $2.9 million he is owed, then decide after that season whether to pay him the $4.1 million he is owed for 2020.
The ability to void the guarantees would give the Jags the flexibility to release Fournette with no salary-cap ramifications (seemingly unlikely) or trade him since a next team would not be tied to $7 million in guarantees.
Fournette’s second season has been marred by injuries and certainly has played a role in the Jags’ woeful 3-8 record this season that includes a seven-game losing streak. Fournette has played in parts of only five games this season, rushing for 314 yards and four touchdowns on 90 carries. Last season, he rushed for 1,040 yards on 268 carries and scored 10 total touchdowns, helping the Jaguars to the AFC title game.
Fournette would be able to challenge any decision to void guarantees in his contract.
Florio also pointed out that this scenario is why Chicago rookie linebacker Roquan Smith held out until mid-August. He was concerned over language in the contract that would have allowed the Bears to void guaranteed money should Smith be suspended by the NFL under its new helmet rules.
In announcing the suspension Monday, NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan said, ‘’sportsmanship is the cornerstone of the game and the league will not tolerate game-related misconduct that conveys a lack of respect for the game itself and those involved in it.’’
—Field Level Media