Though it seemed like earlier today that Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout would be coming to a close, with less than 3 weeks before the regular season opener and a report by CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco that the feeling in the Jaguars’ locker room was that Maurice Jones-Drew would report soon, it now appears that the holdout has gone from bad to worse. New Jaguars owner Shahid Khan angered MJD, the league’s leading rusher in 2011, by calling him out publicly and saying “train’s leaving the station. run, get on it.” MJD responded by saying that he would welcome a trade.
Jones-Drew is obviously angered that Khan has been taking this so public when MJD has been trying to keep this a private matter all along. He also feels disrespected that the team won’t even discuss a new contract with him after he accounted for 47.7% of the team’s yards from scrimmage last season, by far most of any non-quarterback. Unlike last offseason, when Chris Johnson was holding out from the Titans, the Jaguars have not made MJD a reasonable offer. They haven’t even had talks with him about any offer, reasonable or unreasonable.
Last offseason, I took the Titans’ side and bashed Chris Johnson for being greedy. This offseason, I think MJD is being completely reasonable. He’s one of the best, if not the best, at his position in the league and will make just 9.4 million over the next 2 seasons. He’ll make about half of what guys like Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, DeAngelo Williams, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Marshawn Lynch have gotten from their respective teams in the past calender year. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have the league’s most cap space at an estimated 25.11 million. It’s not even so much an issue of money here as it is about respect and the Jaguars are completely disrespecting arguably the most valuable non-quarterback playmaker in the league.
The Jaguars have called for Maurice Jones-Drew to fulfill his obligation, which is so hypocritical given that they, just like every other team in the league, frequently fail to fulfill their obligation and cut underperforming players. If MJD was underperforming his contract, they could cut him easily and probably would, given that he has no more guaranteed money left on his contract. MJD is underpaid on a terrible team at a position with a short shelf life. He has every right to hold out.
The Jaguars are currently taking the position that they will not be trading Maurice Jones-Drew, which is not surprising. Trading him would essentially mean caving and they don’t seem the least bit willing to do that. For this reason, it’s definitely possible that Maurice Jones-Drew could hold out into the season. His backup, Rashad Jennings, all of a sudden becomes an especially intriguing sleeper option in the mid rounds in fantasy leagues, while Maurice Jones-Drew’s stock plummets. I would take him anywhere in the first 5 rounds at least and I wouldn’t draft him without using a later pick on Jennings.
Though the Jaguars are very unlikely to trade him, at least now, it’s still fun to float out trade ideas. The Lions would be an obvious destination because their running back trio of Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, and Mikel Leshoure is about as injury prone as they come. The Bengals, who only have BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott at running back, also make sense, albeit to a lesser extent.
To me, the most intriguing trade scenario would send him to the Atlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, Michael Turner and picks would go back to Jacksonville. Those two teams essentially swapped offensive coordinators this offseason, as former Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter went to Atlanta to replace Mike Mularkey, who left to become the new Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Michael Turner is not a good fit in Koetter’s offense, but MJD would be. In addition to being a better fit, he’s also 3 years younger and more talented and alright knows the offense. They would instantly have one of the league’s best and most balanced offenses if they made that trade, especially if Matt Ryan continues to look as good throwing to talented wideouts like Julio Jones and Roddy White in the regular season as he has looked thus far in the preseason.
Turner is older and less talented, but a much better fit for Mularkey’s scheme, which he’s done well in over the past few years, than Koetter’s. He could be a nice stopgap running back for the Jaguars and pair with Jennings and the picks would also be valuable assets in the Jaguars’ rebuilding project. This trade would also allow them to avoid committing the kind of big money to MJD that they so clearly don’t want to give him. Unfortunately, any trade seems like a real long shot right now and even if MJD holds out into the season, it would take some kind of monster offer, like the one the Bengals got for Carson Palmer last season, for the Jaguars to think about caving and trading away their best offensive player.
If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2