Maurice Jones-Drew has not participated in the voluntary offseason training activities yet, nor is he likely to in the near future. With two more seasons remaining on the contract he signed in April of 2009, he wants a new contract and justifiably so.
Without a doubt he has been the best player on the Jaguars since signing that contract and at 27 years old, he will likely only have one more big contract before his career as a football player ends.
I have no problem with Jones-Drew trying to parlay a season in which he led the NFL in rushing into a new contract. I also have no problem with the Jaguars not paying the three-time All-Pro running back.
At least not yet.
Let me preface by saying that MJD might be my favorite athlete of all time. I know Fred Taylor is the running back of most Jacksonville fans' hearts, but as a Jaguars fan that lives in Southern California, MJD has been a favorite of mine since his days at UCLA.
I used to watch him at the Rose Bowl and was ridiculously excited when my favorite professional team drafted him. To be clear, I want nothing more than for MJD to spend his entire career in Jacksonville.
That said, I'm a Jaguars fan first and foremost. Overpaying a player, no matter who it is, is an ill-advised move that limits a team's ability to use money elsewhere.
Yes, the Jaguars are far, far below the salary cap and yes, I think saving money just to save is a dangerous habit. But it's never wise to willingly overpay. There's always a way to use the money available to a team and that doesn't have to be overpaying a single player.
Why do I assume that the Jaguars would overpay MJD? Because it's impossible not to right now.
He's 27 years old, coming off the first rushing title in Jacksonville Jaguars history. He has never been more expensive and I'm willing to roll the dice with the chance that this is the highest his price tag will ever be.
I'm not saying don't pay him, although there are certainly many that would make an argument not to pay a top running back much at all, I'm just saying why now?
Is it possible that he'll play out of his mind again in 2012 and earn another rushing title? Absolutely. In fact, I hope that's the case. I hope he breaks every rushing record and forces the folks in Canton to get a head start on his bronze bust.
However, with a new Mike Mularkey-led offense that is likely to focus more on the new offensive additions like Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon, I seriously doubt it. While I think he'll still have a strong season, it seems that the most likely scenario is that his numbers will fall back to Earth.
If they do, Jones-Drew's price tag will drop and the Jaguars will be in the position to give him the contract he has earned during his time in Jacksonville at a much more affordable price.
So don't worry too much about MJD missing practice, he'll send his message and he'll be back. When he is back, I'm confident he'll still be one of the NFL's most elite running backs. And don't worry too much about the Jaguars not paying him this offseason, because they shouldn't.