He was a model player and represented the team well as the face of the franchise during his first six seasons in the league, but that all began to change last year.
The issues began with a contract dispute last offseason. Jones-Drew held out until the beginning of the regular season in hopes of getting a new contract despite having two years and almost $9.5 million remaining on his current deal at the time.
His absence was the biggest story of the offseason and was a major distraction to the team, even though he thought differently, according to an ESPN.com report.
Jones-Drew said, via the ESPN.com report:
"For me, it got to the point where I wasn't going to be traded. Obviously, they weren't going to pay me. I could have easily sat out until Week 10, come back and been a distraction. It wasn't about that. I'm not going to come back and distract guys from playing the game the right way."
The issues appeared to fade as Jones-Drew was once again having a productive season through the first six games of the season. He rushed for 414 yards and had the second-highest yards-per-rush average (4.8) of his career before a foot injury derailed his season early in Jacksonville's Week 7 game against the Oakland Raiders.
The foot injury led to more issues between Jones-Drew and the Jaguars. The team botched any chance the running back had of recovering from the injury last season by waiting two months for him to undergo the necessary surgery.
The issues at this point were still just between him and the Jaguars, but legal problems would surface soon.
He was allegedly involved in an altercation at the Conch House Restaurant and Marina in St. Augustine, Fla., during Memorial Day weekend. According to Kent Justice of News4Jax.com, he reportedly attacked a security guard, Kasim Howard, after Howard attempted to protect several women from members of Jones-Drew's entourage.
Jones-Drew has yet to be charged, but two lawyers claim they have video evidence of him attacking Howard, per Stuart Korfhage of The St. Augustine Record.
Jones-Drew's agent, Adisa Bakari, said the player was not involved in any altercation at the restaurant.
He has yet to talk to police, but he has already spoken with head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell, according to an Associated Press report (via MercuryNews.com).
Bradley said, via the report:
"I'm disappointed in the situation that did occur, but I'm not as far as the communication that's taken place," Bradley said. "He's had open communication and he's filling me in on things that are going on and where he's at with things, so I'm pleased with that part of it."
Even if Jones-Drew doesn't get charged, the incident is the third distraction in a year for the three-time Pro Bowler.
All these issues beg an important question: Is Jones-Drew actually more trouble than he's worth?
The answer is a simple one: No, he's not.
Coach Bradley agrees that Jones-Drew should be kept around.
But, as always, there's a catch.
All will be forgotten only if Jones-Drew returns from the injury and plays at the same high level that has made him one of the best running backs in the league. Anything less and there will be detractors who claim he's not worth all the trouble he's putting the organization through.
He appears to be set to make the recovery from injury and return to form this season. He's been rehabbing from surgery in Miami during the last few weeks, and has continued to do so even with the recent allegations, per Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union.
Jones-Drew is doing everything he can to rehab from surgery to make sure the final year of his contract is a successful one. He's entering the last season of the five-year contract he signed in 2009.
It would be stupid for Jacksonville to release him with one year remaining on his deal. He's the best player on the team and is one of the few offensive weapons the team has. There isn't much of a market for an aging running back coming off a major injury, so the Jaguars wouldn't get any value if they try trading him.
The best thing for the franchise to do is to continue to add miles to Jones-Drew this season and then evaluate where he is during the offseason, which is exactly what it looks like GM Caldwell is planning to do.
Even with all the distractions and off-the-field issues of the past year, Jones-Drew is still worth keeping around for another year. His performance and behavior will determine whether or not 2013 is his last year in Jacksonville. If this is the last act of his Jaguars career, let's hope it doesn't end on another sour note.
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