Maurice Jones-Drew's tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars appears to be over after the team signed former Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart on Tuesday. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports confirmed the terms of the contract:
Toby Gerhart's deal with the Jags worth $10.5M over 3 yrs with $4.5M guaranteed— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 12, 2014
Shelling out starting-caliber money for Gerhart signifies the changing of the guard in Jacksonville's backfield. Jones-Drew will test free agency for the first time in his eight-year career.
So far, one team has shown interest in Jones-Drew, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweeted about the Jets' intrigue in the veteran ball-carrier:
Jets need to bolster pass catchers, but they want to improve RBs too. #NYJ showing serious interest in Maurice Jones-Drew, per source.— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 12, 2014
The Jets have the right idea.
Jones-Drew has plenty left in the tank. A down season in 2013 has seemingly turned many teams off of the former NFL rushing leader. But, how much of the running back's lack of productivity was his fault?
First of all, Jones-Drew was lighting it up before suffering a Lisfranc injury in 2012:
A Lisfranc injury is not easy for a running back to overcome. Even after it is fully healed, additional rehabilitation is required to get back into top form. Last season, Jones-Drew was still going through this process.
During an interview with Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com at the end of last season, Jones-Drew was adamant about continuing his recovery over the offseason:
There are some guys that don't need the offseason. They can just go out there and play ball. For me, the offseason is critical. I have to be able to train my body to be able to take the pounding that it takes each week, to be able to recover. I've been taking a lot of shots at my legs the last couple of years. I want to be able to get them back in shape and get ready to roll. This is going to be a critical offseason for me starting with the next couple of weeks, just getting back and ready to play.
To make matters worse for the eight-year veteran, the Jaguars offense was putrid.
Not only did Jacksonville have zero threat of a passing attack, but the offensive line was the downright worst run-blocking unit in 2013. According to Pro Football Focus (subscribers link), the Jaguars offensive line was ranked dead last in run-blocking efficiency with a negative-108 rating.
If Jones-Drew is put in a better situation in 2014, he will get the chance to prove he still has plenty left to offer.
Maurice Jones-Drew: I feel like I have a lot left http://t.co/DAg9HrYAJo— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 26, 2013
Last season, Jones-Drew was not given enough carries to be fully effective. He is a running back who requires a high number of carries over the duration of a game to wear down defenses and gain momentum. Jones-Drew received 20-plus carries over the span of a game just three times in 2013.
Despite all of these hurdles Jones-Drew had to deal with last season, he showed glimpses he is still capable of producing at a high level:
No matter which running back-needy team is looking to land Jones-Drew, they are in for a pleasant surprise. The veteran ball-carrier still has some good years left in him, and given the right situation, is set to flourish once again in 2014.