According to Jacksonville.com, Jaguars general manager Gene Smith is refusing to give Jones Drew a new contract: "He has expressed that he would like to renegotiate and we have expressed, again, that we feel he has a contract with two years left and we expect him to fulfill those obligations."
While Smith is correct in saying Jones-Drew has two years left on his current deal, it would be safe to say that he has drastically outperformed that contract.
Jones-Drew led the entire NFL in rushing yards last year with 1,606 yards on 343 carries. He scored eight touchdowns and had an exceptional 4.7 yards per carry average. Jones-Drew was the only threat opposing defenses feared all year, and despite stacking the box to slow him down, he performed better than any running back in the NFL.
After putting up such elite numbers, MJD is only scheduled to make a base salary of $4.45 million in 2012. He believes he should be making more money, which seems fair enough. He elected to skip minicamp despite hefty fines to make his point to Jaguars management.
The hard stance the Jaguars organization has taken to this point has not deterred Jones-Drew's holdout, but John Clayton, via SportsCenter, believes the star running back will end his holdout without a new contract (h/t Rotoworld):
"I think he now realizes the team is going to do nothing as far as giving him anything on a contract," said Clayton. "He has two years left on the contract. And even though he's outperformed that contract, the organization feels as though they've come back, they've given him a deal even before he was a starter, and taken good care of him. ... There's no chance of him getting a new deal. I think he'll be there for the start of training camp."
Clayton may be correct, but both parties should realize a lengthy holdout does not benefit anyone. Both the Jaguars front office and Jones-Drew have to look no further than the Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson's holdout from a year ago.
Johnson held out for more money after an outstanding season. The Titans organization finally caved in, but Johnson had a down year after attempting to hurry to get back into football shape.
If the MJD holdout follows a similar path, both parties are at a disadvantage. Jones-Drew could injure himself and have a down year, which would be catastrophic for the Jaguars offense.
The best course of action at this point would be for the Jaguars to pay MJD. There is an obvious risk for the organization because Jones-Drew is 27 years old and the shelf-life for a running back in the NFL is so short.
However, the lockout is unlikely to end if the Jaguars continue to have the most cap space in the entire NFL. It would behoove the Jaguars to pay MJD now rather than later and have him suffer the same fate as Chris Johnson.
Gene Smith's reluctance to pay MJD also sends a horribly wrong message to the Jaguars fanbase and the rest of the NFL.
For a team as consistently mediocre as Jacksonville, refusing to pay the player that has given the franchise any ounce of respectability for the past six seasons sends a negative message and sets a bad precedent. Free agents will continue to avoid Jacksonville and draft picks will shudder at the thought of being picked by the franchise.
The Jaguars must pay Maurice Jones-Drew. All that excess cap space is not helping the team win, and the gamble could pay off. There is a risk paying any player in the NFL, but Jones-Drew seems like one of the safer bets in the entire league.
Until the Jags decide to use some of that excess cap room, Jones-Drew should continue to hold out. He's earned it.