NY Jets: Thomas Jones and Leon Washington Holding Out

Greg RiotAnalyst IJuly 30, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 26:  Leon Washington #29 of the New York Jets celebrates with Thomas Jones #20 after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter of their game on October 26, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The New York Jets have moved on from the Brett Favre era, and run in to a freight chain of contract disputes from their two running backs. Thomas Jones has profited from his 4-year, $20 million deal, but the structure of the contract is a bit scary for the AFC rushing champion. For Leon Washington, it’s simply a matter of the team valuing him as much as the Jets betting investors do.

Let’s start with Thomas Jones, who led all AFC running-backs with 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns. He accomplished this in the face of Eric Mangini’s commitment to Favre and the passing attack. Jones had just 290 attempts despite the Jets having a dependable rushing attack. So what’s the big tiff with the Jets?

Jones’ contract is a typical back-loaded contract. He has banked $13.1 million of his $20 million but is due just $900,000 this season. In March, he’ll be due a $3 million roster bonus and will make $3 million again in 2010. However, with the NFL’s ruthless player agreement, the Jets could conceivably cut him before the roster bonus or salary kick in. At 32 years of age, Jones has many reasons to be concerned he won’t see the last third of his four-year deal.

That, however, hasn’t stopped Thomas Jones from reporting to camp and getting to work. Of course, the Jets are able to fine Jones for each day of mandatory camp he misses, but Jones is doing what he can to impress new coach, Rex Ryan, because he knows he’ll be leaned on more than ever in New York’s new offensive game plan.

Ryan is a smash-mouth type of coach who will lean on the run, especially considering that the Jets don’t even know who their quarterback is. With Kellen Clemens, Dirty Sanchez and Erik Ainge competing for the starter’s job, there’s no certainty the Jets will be a threat through the air. Let’s not forget that Jericho Cotchery’s only wingman is Chansi Stuckey.

That’s why the holdout of Leon Washington is so puzzling. The Jets will have a one-two threat with Jones and Washington spelling each other in a rush-heavy attack. Let’s be clear – it’s not puzzling that Washington is holding out. It’s baffling that the Jets won’t pay the guy what he deserves in terms of market value.

Washington averaged 5.9 yards per carry, with 448 total rushing yards, 355 receiving yards, 1,231 return yards for a total of nine touchdowns last season. He’s due to make around $535,000 next season, and can get a 30% bump due to league contract rules. But that doesn’t mean the Jets can’t open the check book for the dynamic offensive threat. At 26 years of age, isn’t Washington a logical long-term signing in the face of Jones’s age?

To make matters worse, if Washington signs long-term, wouldn’t that give rise to the notion that the Jets would release Jones before they pay him upwards of $6 million in bonus and salary starting in March 2010? This whole thing stinks of debacle with dollar signs hanging all over the place.

Rex Ryan wanted to be a head coach, and unfortunately this is part of it. Between finding a franchise quarterback, a compliment to Cotchery, figuring out the mess that is the defense and finding the money to pay his two star running-backs, Ryan has his hands full. Welcome to the big chair, Ryan. Now get the two most important parts of your offense the money they deserve.