Thomas Rawls adds depth, gives Jaguars flexibility with Carlos Hyde

Thomas Rawls signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan in 2015. Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have gotten an early start on trying to sort out their offensive backfield in 2019 by signing running back Thomas Rawls to a reserves/futures contract.

Rawls, 25, has run for 1,336 yards and seven touchdowns in 35 games (17 starts) with Seattle and Cincinnati. He signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan in 2015 and had a team-high 830 yards rushing in 13 games, but his workload and production dropped off because of various injuries, and he was out of football for much of the 2018 season.

He fits with the Jaguars as a backup to Leonard Fournette, who is coming off a disappointing season in which he missed seven games because of injury and was suspended for another. Fournette admitted late in the season that he wasn't in the best shape, and there are questions about his commitment and work ethic.

The Jaguars need to have a better plan behind Fournette than they did this season, when the offense struggled without him. T.J. Yeldon filled in as the starter, but he's not the same kind of physical runner as Fournette -- he's more of a third-down back -- and the run game stagnated because of that and the numerous injuries along the line.

Fournette has had some other off-field issues as well. He has missed two games because of disciplinary reasons in his two seasons with the Jaguars. The Jaguars made him inactive in 2017 because he left the team early during the bye week and missed the team photo. He was suspended for one game without pay this season after he left the bench, ran across the field and got into a fight with Buffalo defensive end Shaq Lawson.

He also was caught on video yelling at a fan in the Nissan Stadium stands that he would "beat your ass." This happened during the Jaguars' embarrassing nationally televised 30-9 loss to Tennessee. Fournette later said the fan used a racial slur.

In addition, executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin publicly criticized Fournette and Yeldon for sitting on the bench and being disinterested in the game during the regular-season finale. Coughlin said Fournette (who was inactive) and Yeldon were "disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player."

Yeldon is an impending free agent and the team will not re-sign him.

The team traded a fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Carlos Hyde in October, but he never got into a groove with the Jaguars other than in Week 16 (47 yards on eight carries against Miami). He was inactive the week before so the Jaguars could get a look at rookie David Williams. Hyde complained publicly about his lack of work, and the team isn't enamored with his approach. Hyde is to make up to $4.75 million in 2019 but carries no dead money, so the Jaguars can cut him without penalty -- especially now that they've added Rawls.

Williams and Fournette were the only other backs under contract for 2019 until the Rawls signing.