Let’s start off by saying that this particular piece has nothing to do with Maurice Jones-Drew’s pending investigation for an incident at the Conch House. Nonetheless, this provides a good impetus to discuss something more important in the long term – MJD’s future with the Jacksonville Jaguars this year and beyond.
While only 28 years old, the argument could be made that Jones-Drew has already peaked and he is unlikely to provide the production his expected next contract would insinuate. After leading the league in rushing in 2011, Jones-Drew posted decent numbers in 2012 before winding up on injured reserve. Coming off a foot injury into a contract year is not an ideal situation for MJD or his agent, but it could provide some leverage if David Caldwell decides to bring back Jones-Drew at the right price.
Jones-Drew definitely doesn’t want to walk into his contract negotiation with two crutches.
Given his contract situation and the way the new regime has handled veterans who aren’t performing up to their pay, one could ask the question; why not just cut Maurice Jones-Drew now?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not flat out declaring we should let MJD go this year, but it’s worth a discussion. In his best season, Jones-Drew rushed for a little over 1,600 yards in an offense where he got the ball pretty much on every first and second down (hyperbole, but close). Last year, Prisco argued that MJD had lost a step, and that the Jaguars weren’t willing to renegotiate his contract because he had lost some of his explosiveness. Two years and a foot injury later, is MJD really going to be close to what he was in his prime?
The Jaguars brought in Justin Forsett and drafted Denard Robinson to bring a little more speed and explosiveness to the running game. In Jedd Fisch’s new offense, who knows how these two backs will be incorporated and how much they want to get the ball in their hands. More touches for MJD means less opportunities for these two younger backs.
Denard Robinson needs as many reps as possible to transition from QB to RB.
Again, I don’t think the Jaguars should or will let go of Maurice Jones-Drew before his contract expires. It’s clear however that the new regime is looking beyond next year, and with this current roster they certainly don’t expect to be contenders in 2013. When it comes down to it, would you rather win 5 games with Maurice Jones-Drew or 3 without him? Why not take some lumps letting the younger players develop, solidify a high draft position next year and possibly draft your quarterback of the future?
Whatever happened at the Conch House shouldn’t and probably won’t affect MJD’s status with the team, but his ability to contribute this year should be a point of interest for the coaching staff and the front office. It happened to Fred Taylor in 2009, albeit at a much later age, but it could happen to MJD as well.
– Daniel Lago
Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89