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There are few strong options at running back among the 2014 NFL free agents class, with minimal big names available for teams looking to add a quality back this offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars free agent Maurice Jones-Drew is among the top RB choices and should garner a decent amount of attention.
However, the soon-to-be 29-year-old isn’t the attractive option he once was when he signed a 5-year, $31 million extension back in 2009.
Jones-Drew is coming off arguably his worst year as a pro, in which he averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry, and posted the second lowest amount of rushing touchdowns of his career (5).
MJD is now on the back end of his career and has a serious foot injury on his record after having left foot surgery in 2012.
There’s no question that MJD’s stock is very low currently, and he won’t command the same type of money he did five years ago when he was rushing for 1,000 plus yards consistently.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of rushing-starved teams in the NFL, who would gladly take a chance on Jones-Drew and his services.
MJD was still top 20 in the league in yards (803) and rushing attempts (234) in 2013, to go along with his five rushing touchdowns and 314 receiving yards.
The eight-year veteran also heated up towards the end of the season, posting his three highest rushing totals (84 yards, 77 yards, 103 yards) in the final five games, which were all victories for the Jaguars.
Jones-Drew showed flashes of the explosiveness that made him the NFL’s leading rusher back in 2011, when he took home the rushing crown with 1,606 yards. From 2009-2011, MJD finished top 5 in the NFL in rushing yards, averaging 1,440 yards and nine touchdowns in that span, and was easily one of the league’s top backs.
While he may not be on that level anymore, he still is fast and powerful with the ability to break tackles and score in the red zone. There is the very realistic possibility that Jones-Drew isn’t an every down back anymore, but he can still be very effective on a team with a multiple-back system such as the Broncos, Dolphins, or Redskins.
MJD has a lot of mileage on his legs, with just over 1,800 rushing attempts in his career, and likely won’t be able to receive the extensive workload that he did when he was an elite running back.
But, the UCLA-product could be an excellent fit for a team that won’t need to use him as three-down back or a place where he can split the carries.
Likely Landing Spot
Maurice Jones-Drew’s time in Jacksonville appears to be up. MJD was recently quoted about his future with the Jaguars, and he all but said that he was moving on.
“I’m fine with it. I kind of figured that because we didn’t talk throughout the year. That’s part of the business. There’s no hard feelings. I gave everything I could to the organization. I appreciate them giving me that opportunity. Wherever I go next year, they’ll have a person ready to play at a high level.”
Jones-Drew would likely only return to Jacksonville, the only place he’s ever played, if he takes a hometown discount, which he doesn’t appear willing to do.
So with his career seemingly over in Jacksonville, MJD will test the market.
Teams such as the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, and Arizona Cardinals are the most desperate for a quality running back heading into 2014. However, the bulk of the teams interested in MJD will likely only offer a two-year deal with heavy performance-based incentives, which may not intrigue Jones-Drew.
MJD will have to accept a pay cut in 2014, but will seek to do it with a team that has pieces in place to be a contender as he enters the twilight of his career.
That being said, Jones-Drew will likely land a two-year deal with either the Giants or Cardinals, as they have the biggest voids at the position and are poised to contend for the playoffs next season.
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