NFL Holdouts: Projecting Market Value of Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Forte

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IJune 13, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes upfield against the Indianapolis Colts January 1, 2012 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Don't blame the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears—it's not easy pegging the worth of running backs in today's NFL, even if they are as productive as Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Forte

The two star running backs are disgruntled with their current contract situations, enough so that holding out is not out of the realm of possibility.  

Without taking sides, let's examine what Jones-Drew and Forte are truly worth on today's market. 


Maurice Jones-Drew 

Jones-Drew, 27, led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,606 yards on the ground. If it weren't for his contributions to the Jaguars in 2011, they may have been one of the most anemic offenses in the modern era. 

He has been a workhorse in Jacksonville, especially since Fred Taylor's departure, and carried the ball a career-high 343 times last year. 

The former UCLA Bruin has a career 4.6 yards per carry average and has scored a whopping 62 rushing touchdowns. He has also caught 278 passes for 2,473 yards. 

Comparing him to another newly minted running back is an easy way to determine his value. 

Marshawn Lynch, a first-round pick the year after Jones-Drew was selected, signed a four-year, $31 million extension in early March. 

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 12:  Running back Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on December 12, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Rams 30-13. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Lynch is a year younger than Jones-Drew but has dealt with off-field issues in the past, serving a three-game suspension while he was with the Buffalo Bills. 

On the field, Jones-Drew trumps Lynch in every statistical category. He has scored 27 more touchdowns, averages 0.6 more yards per carry and has hauled in 135 more catches.

MJD does have 300 more career rushes than Lynch, so the wear and tear on his body could be a red flag for Jaguars management. But while Jones-Drew has taken more punishment in his career, isn't he more valuable to the Jaguars offense?

He should be looking for around $8 million in annual compensation.  

Reasonable contract: Three-year, $26 million extension


Matt Forte 

Like Lynch, Forte is 26 years old, but has experienced one less year of hits from NFL defenders. His carries have gone down in each of his first four seasons, from 316 in his rookie year to 203 last season. 

That being said, he was undoubtedly been the heartbeat of the Bears offense during that stretch. 

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 4: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears lays on the field after being injured on a hit by Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field on December 4, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Forte, he is coming off a severe leg injury that could hinder his speed and cutting ability, not to mention decrease the leverage he has in contract talks. The fact that he is the team's franchise player will also leave him with essentially no leverage after the deadline to sign a long-term deals passes on July 16. 

After playing on a rookie deal that offered him less than $1 million per season, he is set to make $7.7 million in 2012, but his contract expires at the end of the season. 

What's more, it is hard to find a comparable running back to Forte who has recently inked a multi-year deal. 

LeSean McCoy, the Philadelphia Eagles versatile running back drafted the year after Forte, signed a five-year, $45 million extension this offseason, but his career numbers far exceed the stats of the Chicago Bears running back. 

McCoy has seven more career rushing touchdowns, nearly 400 less carries and a better yards per carry average (4.8 to 4.2). 

Given his age, injury history and importance to Chicago's offense, around $7 million per season is logical for Forte. 

Reasonable contract: Four-year, $27 million contract