Bears starting running back David Montgomery's status for Week 1's opener in Detroit is very much up in the air after the second-year pro injured his groin in practice last week. His injury exposed one of the Bears' roster weaknesses — running back depth — and has led to questions about who will replace Montgomery in the starting lineup if he's out for a couple of games.
The candidates who are currently on the team include Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Ryan Nall. None of them inspire much confidence as a lead back. But a new contender may have just become available on Monday: Leonard Fournette.
The Jaguars released Fournette in a surprise move after failed attempts at a trade, according to multiple reports on Twitter.
Fournette was the fourth overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft and while his career hasn't been nearly as productive as his pre-draft hype predicted, he's been a quality NFL starter.
Fournette totaled 1,152 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 and has topped 1,000 rushing yards in two of his three seasons in the league. He had a career-high 4.3 yards per carry last year and, at times, ran like one of the league's toughest backs.
At just 25 years old, Fournette will have plenty of suitors for his services. He's a legitimate three-down starting running back whose best seasons are likely ahead. That said, his reported clashes with the Jaguars coaching staff will be a red flag as teams weigh the risks associated with signing a player who will have little choice but to sign a one-year deal in 2020 but could be a contract nightmare next offseason if he's productive.
Would signing Fournette make sense for the Bears? It's hard to argue why it wouldn't.
Fournette will command something in the neighborhood of $4 million on a one-year deal in the open market. It'll be a classic prove-it deal for a player with a lot of juice left in his legs, and it's the pay he would've received in Jacksonville had he remained on the roster in 2020. The Bears have the cap space to make a move like that.
A one-two punch of Montgomery and Fournette would flip the identity of this offense from a group that doesn't have one to a Titans-like ground-and-pound attack. With Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles vying for the starting quarterback job, it probably makes sense to feature a two-headed rushing attack as the primary gameplan on offense.
General manager Ryan Pace preaches competition (every year) as the key variable in getting the most out of players. Adding Fournette to the running back room will create that kind of competition (and insurance) in the backfield that this team needs right now.