You can pretty much take that prediction to the bank.
But in terms of contract negotiation and the fact the NFL’s leading rusher in 2011 wants a contract extension, there could be a situation that lingers for longer than the offseason. Jaguars fans and NFL fans alike had better hope team owner Shad Khan will reach into his pocket or pull out his checkbook and sign the most important player on the team roster to a long-term deal.
If there was ever a player who meant “everything” to his team, then MJD is the poster boy.
According to NFL.com, Jones-Drew being absent from the team’s organized training program has to do with his desire for an extension to remain with the team.
While other runners like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and DeAngelo Williams have gotten new deals or extensions, the former second-round draft pick out of UCLA in 2006 deserves to be paid as one of the top runners in the league.
"He's talked about trying to get an extension for his contract, which I think everybody's aware of," team head coach Mike Mularkey said Tuesday in an article in the Florida Times-Union. "I'm on the coaching end of those matters. I talk to him about football and what I can do for him on the field and in the locker room."
Right now, according to the report, “Jones-Drew signed a five-year, $31.35 million contract in April of 2009 that has two years and $9.5 million remaining.”
Whichever side Mularkey is on, having his top player out of camp and on the other side of the country (Jones-Drew is currently in California), may raise a red flag.
The Jaguars' tight end, Marcedes Lewis, who played with Jones-Drew at UCLA, went through the 2010 season, the NFL lockout and the first week of training camp without a long-term contract. Lewis then signed a five-year, $35 million contract with the team and subsequently had his worst season as a Jaguar.
While having Lewis in the offensive game plan for the team, his lack of presence is not as detrimental as the loss of the team's leading rusher.
As of now, backup Rashad Jennings, who was injured all of last season, has been working with the first team.
Last season, the Jaguars were as plain and uneventful a team as the NFL has seen in some time. Rookie Blaine Gabbert was inserted as the starter in Week 3, playing poorly and below expectations all season long. Jones-Drew was responsible for almost half the team’s offensive output last season—running and catching the football.
This season, the team signed free agent wide receivers Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans and then found Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State after trading up to the fifth spot in the April draft. There is hope and optimism in north Florida since the days of Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor.
Because this is a time in the offseason when players are not obligated to be on the practice field, Mularkey said he understands the situation with his star player.
"It's all voluntary," Mularkey said in the Times-Union article. "I wish he was here. He knows we wish he was here. His teammates have talked to him about it. It's a personal decision. There's nothing I can do about it.”
Jaguars fans and the coaching staff had better hope the team does something about it, or they may have a disgruntled running back on their hands—and that cannot be good for the organization to start the season.
The team must also work to bring kicker Josh Scobee into camp. Scobee was offered a one-year tender as the team's franchise player at $2.88 million. According to Tania Gaguli's article in the Florida Times-Union, Scobee has not signed the tender and is seeking a long-term deal with the team.