Maurice Jones-Drew has over 9,000 yards from scrimmage in his first six seasons, good for 8th all-time among running backs. He has averaged 12 touchdowns a year. Last year, he did it on a team that ranked dead last – by a comfortable margin – in virtually every passing category. He had the best season ever for a running back playing on a horrible passing team.
So, obviously, when the owners said that they needed a Rookie Wage Scale to stop spending money on unproven players, and to reward those that had actually proven, Maurice Jones-Drew would seem to be the prototype. He was a second round pick who didn’t get the monster rookie contract, outperformed it, signed an early extension at friendly terms for the team to shift some risk for him, rather than wait for free agency. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that everyone in favor of the Rookie Wage Scale isn’t banging the drum for this proven warrior to get paid commensurate with similar or even lesser backs.
Maurice Jones-Drew, or at least sources close to Jones-Drew, leaked to Adam Schefter that he was upset with owner Shahid Khan’s recent comments and would be open to a trade.
“Maurice wants to play for an organization that wants him and for an owner who respects him and values what he brings to a team — on the field, in the locker room and in the community,” Bakari (Adisa Bakari, Jones-Drew’s agent) said.
Previously, Khan had said in regard to MJD that ”Train’s leaving the station. Run, get on it.”
I happen to think that this deal will get done by opening day. Right now, the Jacksonville Jaguars are acting like it would destroy the organization if they give into Jones-Drew, and he is acting insulted by the owner’s posturing. Both sides are posturing.
You know why a deal will get done? Because there is too much middle ground. Jones-Drew has been a tremendous value for his career. Despite my earlier sarcasm, of course teams never want to pay full market value for a player. If you pay everyone exactly what they deserve, you end up average in a system with overall salary constraints. You have to find value.
However, Jones-Drew’s leverage is reduced by two years remaining on a deal. His ultimate leverage is his impact. We may debate the value of running backs, but last year, I looked at the impact of top backs and the passing offenses, and the net yards per attempt dropped by 0.35 to 0.40 yards when top backs were out of the lineup. Rashad Jennings may be able to duplicate some of the rushing numbers, but the impact on dictating coverages and defense will not be the same. Similarly, I looked at elite quarterbacks, and they had better seasons, relative to their career averages, when they had better running backs.
So, Jones-Drew is an asset and it’s not just plug and go with every running back being easily replaceable. He’s also going to be 29 when his next deal would come up, an age when no one is giving big money. He’s trying to strike while he has some value. I could see a deal that doesn’t rival the recent ones by Forte, Lynch, and Peterson, because he doesn’t have the same leverage. On the open market, yeah, Jones-Drew would exceed Forte’s deal. That extra year matters. But I’ll say adding another season and upping the average to about 7 million per year through age 29 will be as good as he does, and would be tempting enough he would come back.
If things get personal, and this is not just smoke as part of negotiations, then there will be teams willing to pay that amount and make a trade.
[photo via US Presswire]