Contract squabbles are one thing. They annoy teams and lead to some ugly dialogue at times but that is part of the business in pro sports. Cool heads usually prevail and some kind of common ground is found. That was what many thought would happen between running back Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville Jaguars. A number of unfortunate incidents later and it seems the former rushing champion is struggling just to keep his job, let alone make any more money.
Jacksonville Jaguars and Gus Bradley mulling Jones-Drew future
Things started going wrong for Jones-Drew last season. Jacksonville expected him to stay the focal point of their offense as the coaching staff tried to settle down a muddy picture at quarterback with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. That plan went out the window before the season really ever got going. Late in October of 2012 he tore the Lisfranc in his left foot and ended up on season-ending injured reserve. At the time it was considered a setback. Jones-Drew was fresh off three-straight Pro Bowl seasons and once healthy should reclaim his spot as one of the best running backs in the AFC. Sadly it isn’t that simple anymore.
News broke back in March that Jones-Drew was involved in an altercation at a local restaurant and bar called the Conch House. Nobody is certain what exactly happened. No criminal charges have been filed but the lawyer of the bouncer at the bar claims Jones-Drew attacked his client on the night of the 26th. In turn the running back’s agent claims there never was an altercation. The accusers quickly fired back that they have video evidence. If this is true, then it creates a bad situation for new Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley. Getting Jones-Drew back would and still can help his rebuilding team. The problem is distractions like that aren’t helpful to any new coach, let along an experienced one. With one year left on his contract, Jones-Drew is reaching a point where he is no longer battling for a lucrative new deal. He is fighting to just stay on the team.
Jeff Fisher may need a Steven Jackson replacement
Provided the Jaguars don’t budge on their contract talks, Jones-Drew becomes a free agent sooner or later. That means he will have to find a new team that needs help at running back and a system that has use for his skill set. While there are some interesting options, one that would fit from the start is the St. Louis Rams. They went through a major change of their own this off-season when running back Steven Jackson left to join the Atlanta Falcons. That has left the Rams backfield in a state of unknown. One thing Jackson brought besides Pro Bowl skill was stability. For long stretches he was the single piece of offense St. Louis could rely on. With him gone the pressure falls to quarterback Sam Bradford to pick up the slack.
Then again Rams head coach Jeff Fisher never liked to live life without a running game. When he first took over the Tennessee Titans he had Eddie George and later on he drafted Chris Johnson, turning him into a superstar. Running backs are a mainstay of what Fisher likes to do. None of the players currently on the roster have more than year of experience or over 1,000 yards rushing in a season. Maurice Jones-Drew has both. He is only 28-years old and has topped 1,300 yards three times since 2009. Provided his foot injury heals properly he could make a dangerous addition to a promising roster in St. Louis.
At the same time Jacksonville saves money and can move on without the distraction.