Football Nation has learned the Jacksonville Jaguars have decided to allow their star running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, to test the free agent market. The team also announced they will decide whether to match another teams offer or make a counter offer from any team that negotiates with the eight-year veteran.
According to Mark Long of the Associated Press, “General manager Dave Caldwell said Tuesday that Jones-Drew has ''earned the right'' to enter the market in March. Caldwell added that the Jaguars would decide whether to match or beat another team's offer.
''This is his first time, he's been a great player in this organization, he's had a great career and he's earned the right to see what his value and his market is,'' Caldwell said. ''And it's our right to decide if we want to match it and bring him back. I think that's kind of where we're at now.''
This is something I had thought could happen to the leading rusher for the Jaguars. On NFL Network, after the Jaguars won their fourth game of the season earlier this season, Jones-Drew was quoted as saying he wanted to come back to Jacksonville next season. Then in conversations with him by local media, it has been expressed by Jones-Drew that the team must decided whether it wants him back next season and can a contract be ironed out by the team and his agent.
As part of the connection to Jacksonville, Jones-Drew said he has three children and did not want to move them from the area.
The running back made it clear Monday that he wants to stay in Jacksonville, but said his decision is all about money. He just played out a five-year, $31 million contract. The deal paid him $4.95 million in 2013.
''Hopefully I can stay here, but that's not up to me,'' he said. ''It's time to sit back with my family and talk and see what's best for us. I have three kids, don't want to move them around, but if that's the case, then it has to be done. We'll see. There are some other variables.''
Right now, the Jaguars have Jones-Drew, Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson on the depth chart at the running back position. Should Jones-Drew leave the team, Todman would have a shot at starting for the team - as he gained 100 yards in his only start of the season. The Jaguars could look to free agency or the draft to find another runner.
While the Jaguars have said they would be interested in trying to work out a contract for the UCLA graduate, they may look in another direction.
''I think we need to upgrade,'' Caldwell said in Long‘s story. ''We're always looking to upgrade all positions. Step 2 is to raise that standard of acceptance, and we do have to address that. We always have to have a contingency plan in place for all positions.''
Jones-Drew ran for 803 yards this season while coming back from LisFranc surgery this past season that wiped out all but six games in the 2012 season. He came back slower than usual and looked overweight. He also suffered a hamstring injury December 5 versus the Texans which kept him out against the Buffalo Bills.