The New York Jets are looking to be active players in free agency this year. There have been some big names linked to the Jets, such as safeties T.J Ward and Chris Clemons and Donte Whitner. And there is one other name that would make perfect sense for Gang Green: Maurice Jones-Drew.
Manish Mehta of New York Daily News first mentioned Jones-Drews' name as a target for the Jets, saying it was a bit surprising. However, the Jets are in need of help with their rushing attack.
Two interesting & somewhat surprising names on Jets Persons of Interest list: 49ers S Donte Whitner & Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 9, 2014
Despite ranking sixth in the league in rushing, averaging 134.9 YPG, once you factor out quarterback Geno Smith's 366 yards, their average drops to 112 YPG—good for 17th in the league.
This need for help stems from the Jets attempt to lighten the load for Smith. As TFY Draft Insider reports:
The New York Jets are returning to a more run oriented offense in 2014 in an attempt to exploit their strengths and lessen the load on Geno Smith. I’m told the game plan is to try and keep Smith under 20 passes per game.
This isn't the first time Jones-Drew has been linked to the Jets. After contract talks stalled between MJD and the Jaguars in 2012, there were rumors of him being traded. The Jets initially were linked as a possible trade partner but, according to Mehta, it was not cost-effective.
Jets aren't interested in trading for Maurice Jones-Drew. Price tag (players/draft picks + signing him to new deal) is prohibitive. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 22, 2012
Now that the Jets have the cap room, they could finally get MJD at a reasonable price.
Head coach Rex Ryan is no stranger to getting the most out of older running backs. When Ryan became head coach of the Jets in 2009, he inherited a then-30-year-old Thomas Jones. Under Ryan's run-first offense, Jones enjoyed the best season of his career, rushing for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The addition of Jones-Drew to the Jets backfield could yield similar results. He has the ability to be an every-down running back. He is still a strong, agile runner who can make people miss in the open field as well as make yards after contact, as he proved in 2013.
Jones-Drew also would bring veteran leadership to a young running-back group consisting of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. The young duo did compile over 1,600 combined rushing yards last year, but neither back topped 1,000 yards individually. Ivory in particular failed to live up to expectations after coming over from the New Orleans Saints' crowded backfield.
The Jets aren't the only team that will be vying for MJD's services. The Jaguars are expected to offer their star running back a two-year deal while the Dolphins have also been linked to him, per James Walker of ESPN.com. The Jets do, however, offer arguably the best chance to reach the postseason.
This potential trio of running backs could become the best in their division and one of the better trios in the NFL. They would instill a physical, hard-hitting running style that Ryan loves. They would allow the Jets to mirror the system Seattle uses, relying on hard running and play-action bootlegs that would best use Smith's athleticism.
Between the defense starting to re-emerge as a fearsome unit and a good running back unit, the Jets are starting to look like the team that went to back-to-back AFC championships. They do have a few holes to fill before they can seriously contend in the playoffs, but snagging Jones-Drew would be a step in the right direction.