Maurice Jones-Drew finally ended his holdout today after a 38-day absence.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this afternoon that MJD has ended his 38-day holdout after arriving at team facilities. A tweet by Rashad Jennings also indicated the Jags star player is back with his team.
Just shared some love with @jones_drew32in the locker room. Glad to see you back - Let's work brah!— Rashad Jennings (@RashadJennings) September 2, 2012
This report confirms Jones-Drew’s apparent realization that he had no other option but to report to his team and continue to be one of the most productive backs in the league, regardless of his notions about his own worth.
This begs the question of why he believed he could accomplish a re-negotiation of his contract in the first place.
There was never a chance that his holdout was going to lead to more money. How could it, when the team has the authority to slap egregious fines on the seventh-year player for his absence from team workouts?
Jones-Drew hoped to restructure a contract that he signed in 2009, which pays him $31 million over five years. He has received $22 million to date.
In the three seasons that followed, he rushed for over 1,300 yards each year, including an NFL-best 1,606-yard performance in 2011.
Because he is the league’s seventh-highest-paid running back, he should feel like a higher pay rate is warranted. Based on his consistent productivity, he should feel he deserves more than his peers.
That doesn’t mean he should get it. Jones-Drew and his agent Adisa Bakari agreed to the terms of his original contract, and there’s no reason for him not to honor that agreement.
NFL running backs have a short shelf life, and it is always difficult to tell when their talents will actually expire. MJD will be 29 years old when his contract is up following the 2013 season. He will not receive as lucrative a deal as the one he signed in 2009, which is reason for him to want as much compensation as he can get before inevitably wearing down physically as his market value decreases with age.
The problem is, he had no leverage in this case. Sure, he is the face of the Jaguars franchise. If he doesn’t play, you can all but ensure that Jacksonville would go straight to the bottom of the NFL standings and secure a top-five pick in next year’s draft.
Did Jones-Drew have good enough reason to holdout?
But the Jaguars had the ability to fine him $30,000 for each day he missed practice, in addition to a $60,000 fine for his absence from a mandatory three-day minicamp, according to the ESPN report.
In all, Jones-Drew can potentially be fined up to $1.2 million as punishment for his holdout. Team management would do well not to charge MJD that much to avoid the risk of really angering the only player who gives Jacksonville a chance to win games. He doesn’t need lofty fines to impress upon him how much of a failure his decision to hold out was.
Ironically, a holdout that was supposed to make him wealthier will end with MJD’s wallet a little lighter.
The Jaguars workhorse will now need to pony up and play some football with kickoff to the upcoming regular season one short week away.
He missed valuable time conditioning, which could leave him more susceptible to injury. He missed valuable time learning a new system with new head coach Mike Mularky and his coaching staff. He missed valuable time meshing with his teammates. All of this because he feels he deserves more than the $8 million he is slated to make in the next two seasons.
Despite being deserving of more money, Jones-Drew’s holdout proves that no player has the power to dictate his own salary. It’s a cold world when it comes to NFL salary negotiations, but the reality is that one player is not above the team or league policy.
Jones-Drew’s decision to return to his team means that the Jaguars have a fighter’s chance to win games this season. It means that owner Shad Khan and general manager Gene Smith are no pushovers.
And it means that Jones-Drew will have to wait for his contract to expire before he gets a new one, just like every other player in the NFL.