I know this will anger many of the Jaguars fans who read my stories on a regular basis, but here is a little secret that I need to share with you.
We do not need to make signing Maurice Jones-Drew a priority. There are other areas of the team that need to be addressed and players who need to restructure contracts to continue with this rebuilding project.
Finding a running back can happen in the draft or free agency. Yes, having a runner like Jones-Drew is helpful on a team that had won four games this year, but the negotiations between the team and the superstar have not started and there is already a feeling of lines being drawn in the sand with the Jaguars and the eight-year veteran.
Jones-Drew said in local reports and on NFL Network that he wants to return to the team, but also understands the NFL is a business and ultimately, the team must decide if they want him back. He has battled injuries the past two seasons and hopes 2014 will allow him to showcase his talent and prove he is still an elite runner.
Jones-Drew told 1010XL’s Jessica Blaylock that he has three young children who he does not want to uproot and move, so ultimately he wants to stay in the city that drafted him in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Conversely, the man picked ahead of him in that Draft, Marcedes Lewis, should be on the forefront of everyone’s mind in Jacksonville. The 2006 first round pick was expected to be a casualty because of his fat contract and the fact injuries decimated the first half of his season.
Eight games later, Lewis is one player this team must keep and is possibly more important to the offense than his UCLA teammate.
As the injury bug continued to destroy the receiving corps in Jacksonville, Lewis became a more important part of the Jaguars' offense - where he tied a record for scoring touchdowns in four straight games. The 6’6” tight end is a huge target over the middle and in the red zone - something the Jaguars have lacked since Lewis’s Pro Bowl season in 2010.
A renegotiation of his contract may be the only thing that is holding the Jaguars back from making sure he is another part of this offense in 2014.
In other Jaguars news: No coaching turnover
The Jaguars retained all of its staff from this past season - something that has been a rarity with this franchise in recent years.
“It’s a first for me,” said third-year receiver Cecil Shorts on Jacksonville.com. “Since I’ve been in the league, we’ve always had something going on the day after or at least speculation the day after. It feels good to be at peace and at ease that the staff, general manager and everybody will be here next year. We’re excited about what’s to come. I feel like we can make some big strides from this year to next year.”
The Jaguars will also have to find the right balance on a team looking to take another step forward after a 4-12 season.
The Jaguars are in need of stability. The team ranked last in point differential at minus-202. The Jaguars scored a league-low 247 points and allowed 449. No team was close to the Jaguars. Houston was second-worst at minus-152, followed by Washington (-144), Oakland (-131) and Tampa Bay (-101).