What Should the Jacksonville Jaguars Do with Maurice Jones-Drew?
An acrimonious hold out, a season-destroying injury and a moribund offense added up to the worst record in the NFL and a complete regime change for the Jaguars.
Now, Jones-Drew is coming off foot surgery and entering the final year of his deal with the franchise. The team isn't likely to resign a 28-year-old runner one year off of major foot surgery for big money. So assuming he's not part of their long-term plans, what do they do with him in the short run?
The Jaguars have three viable options for Jones-Drew.
In a perfect world, some team would be anxious for a runner and find Jones-Drew's $5 million price tag for 2013 attractive. After all, he's half the price of Chris Johnson, and not overpaid at that rate.
Of course, it takes two to make a trade, and the Jags can't be sure anyone would be much interested in giving up anything of consequence for a guy who won't be ready to go until the summer.
This option will pick up steam in training camp, however. If Jones-Drew can have a strong camp and preseason, the team may get an offer for him.
If they do, they should take it, even if it's for a late-round pick.
Unlike Johnson, Jones-Drew is affordable. However, the Jaguars aren't loaded with cap space. They have enough to work with, but if new GM David Caldwell hopes to make a splash, he could always use more green to do it with.
What should the Jags do with MoJo?
Cutting Jones-Drew saves that $5 million he's slated to make, and if that's the difference between landing a player who will be with the team for years or not, it could pay off.
More than likely, however, the Jaguars won't need the money to accomplish their free agency goals.
Cutting Jones-Drew seems like an extreme option to consider only if his health concerns are more severe than the team has let on.
If he doesn't look right in training camp, the Jaguars should definitely part ways with him before finalizing the roster.
Despite missing most of the year, Jones-Drew was still the Jaguars' leading rusher.
While there's little chance the team is competitive in 2013, there's so little benefit to cutting him and so little chance of dealing him, he's likely to play for the Jaguars anyway. He's still the team's most marketable (and best) player.
Assuming he's healthy and no one else is interested, Jones-Drew will finish his career in Jacksonville with one final season. He'll be highly motivated to have a monster year. The Jaguars will benefit before letting him walk.
They could always consider signing him to a long-term deal, but that seems unlikely. With a new GM in place anything is possible, but there's been no indication the team is interested in committing to him long-term.
Doing so until his health is verified wouldn't be prudent anyway.
There's no one right way to handle the final year of a reasonably priced runner on a bad team. Ultimately, the Jaguars know that if they let Jones-Drew walk, they could potentially get a compensatory pick in the 2015 draft as a reward.
That pick will likely be high, so unless there's some pressing need in free agency or they get offered a better deal, MoJo will be back in teal for another season.
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