The Oakland Raiders signed running back Maurice Jones-Drew to a three-year deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew officially is an Oakland Raider, signing a 3-year deal with the team. Jones-Drew is going home.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2014
Jones-Drew told the official Raiders Twitter account that his main goal is winning:
"The only goal I have is to win and that’s it." - RB @Jones_Drew32— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) March 28, 2014
Whether or not the Raiders will post a winning record remains to be seen. But one thing is incredibly clear—the signing of MJD is very bad news for Darren McFadden.
McFadden did re-sign with the Raiders this offseason, presumably to be their starting running back again:
But the Raiders clearly don't have too much confidence in McFadden. If they did, they would not have signed Jones-Drew.
And on the one hand, that makes sense. MJD, despite the fact he has battled injuries, is a better runner than McFadden. Last season, MJD rushed for 803 yards on 234 carries for five touchdowns. McFadden, in only 10 games, rushed for 379 yards.
Let's be frank—the Raiders did not sign MJD to be a backup. The Raiders still seem to operate as if they complete their scouting by going through the most popular trading cards. MJD has the pedigree. He will start.
That means McFadden may have to find a new home. He's never lived up to his lofty draft status of being selected fourth overall in 2008. Injuries haven't helped, but he's only had one good season.
For his part, MJD is saying all the right things. He is looking forward to competing with McFadden, telling Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com: "We have different running abilities. But the competition is what's going to make us better. We'll push each other."
But anything other than MJD starting would be a shock.
Who Should Start for Oakland?
There is an argument to be made for the two to split time. After all, the two complement each other fairly well. Jones-Drew is a pounding inside runner, while McFadden has the speed to get to the outside. As a tandem, they could turn the running game into a legitimate factor. Remember, the Raiders' two leading rushers from last season—Rashad Jennings and Terrelle Pryor—are either not on the roster, in Jennings' case, or slated to be the backup, in Pryor's case.
So, a tandem of MJD and McFadden could make Matt Schaub's job easier and allow them to set up the play-action passing game, leading to opportunities down the field for Rod Streater and Denarius Moore.
But that would be too easy for the Raiders, as they still seem to make their decisions as if this was Madden 2010.
It's not. It's the NFL. And the Raiders, even after this signing, are still the worst team in the AFC West.
MJD will get the bulk of the carries, and it would not be surprising to see McFadden ask for a trade. There are some teams—Tennessee comes to mind—that could be interested in McFadden's services.
But it's clear the Raiders are not. The difference between MJD and McFadden is not that large. But teams make clear their intentions when they dish out big contracts like that. The Raiders are going to go with MJD. McFadden is the odd man out.
This is a classic Raiders move, signing a guy who looks to be over the hill. Whether McFadden or MJD starts doesn't really matter. The Raiders are still going to be a mess. As NFL.com fantasy expert Michael Fabiano noted:
I wouldn't draft Darren McFadden or MJD as more than a high-end RB4 in fantasy leagues next season.— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) March 28, 2014
That is all you need to know. No matter who starts, the Raiders will struggle to field a quality offense and will most likely finish below .500.