The Maurice Jones-Drew holdout is now official as the star running back has not reported for the first day of Jacksonville Jaguars training camp.
The news is not much of a surprise, as Jones-Drew has threatened to sit out if he does not receive a new contract before the start of the 2012 NFL season. Now it appears as if both sides have dug their heels into the ground and are settling in for a long battle that could carry well into the regular season.
On Wednesday, new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan told the media that he has no plans on giving Jones-Drew a new contract as the team expects him to honor the final two years of his current contract. On the other side, Jones-Drew feels that he has outplayed the terms of his current contract and sees this as his last chance to cash in on a major deal before he burns out.
There are reports that Jones-Drew is upset with the Jaguars and is prepared for a long-term holdout that could go all the way up to the start of the regular season, but he may not be willing to miss any regular season games in his quest for a new contract.
I don’t think this spills into the regular season, because the Jaguars hold more leverage in this situation.
Yes, Jones-Drew’s numbers speak for themselves and he has indeed outplayed the terms of his current contract, but the Jaguars went 5-11 last year with the league’s leading rusher. It just goes to show that the passing game has completely taken over the NFL these days.
If the Jaguars could only muster 5 wins with the best running back in the NFL, they certainly can live without him. All the Jaguars have done this offseason have been with an eye towards becoming a more pass heavy offense and relying less and less on their rushing attack.
The Jaguars are all in on young quarterback Blaine Gabbert and his new group of wide receivers, so the improvement of the Jaguars offense in 2012 will rest on the shoulders of Gabbert, not on the shoulder of Jones-Drew. Plus the Jaguars have a more than capable backup in Rashad Jennings who is ready to assume the starting role if necessary.
The wild card in this situation is Khan, however. As a brand new NFL owner, it is unknown how he will react to situations like this, but based on his comments yesterday he will not hesitate to take a hard line and let Jones-Drew sit out if that is really what he wants to do.
In the end I believe this is only some posturing by Jones-Drew, and he is not willing to strain his relationship with the Jaguars to the point where they won’t give him a new deal next offseason when it will be more palatable for them to do so.
All things considered, Jones-Drew’s best chance at getting the deal he desires is to wait for next year and continue to play at the high level he has shown over the past three seasons.