All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew skipped the opening day of the team’s voluntary orientation for vets in what appears to be an agreement dispute. NFL spreads
Jones-Drew is lined up to gain $4.45 million this season, significantly less than fellow running backs Chris Johnson, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch.
“It would’ve been pleasant to have Maurice Jones-Drew here,” new coach Mike Mularkey asserted. “I can’t ask any of them to be here. We need them to be here … only to kind of get an understanding of how we are, what they can expect from us and he just was one of the no-shows.”
Jones-Drew was one of two players under contract not available for the start of the 3-day session. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is sitting home following eye surgery. Place-kicker Josh Scobee also is not attending, but he has still to sign the team’s franchise tender and is hoping to get a long term agreement done. NFL lines
Jones-Drew reputedly wants one, as well.
He led the NFL in rushing last season, gaining 1,606 yards for the league’s worst offense and making his 3rd uninterrupted Pro Bowl. He has 2 years remaining on a 5-year contract worth $31 million that he signed in 2009. The contract included $17.5 million guaranteed.
Mularkey claimed he had an idea Jones-Drew would not attend the minicamp because he skipped the last 14 days of offseason conditioning, but added that he was not aware whether Jones-Drew’s absence was deal related.
Jones-Drew was not required to attend, but surely Mularkey would have liked to have his top player and a team captain available for the start of his 1st season in Jacksonville.
“As I told the team, I appreciated their effort to be here,” Mularkey said. “Absolutely voluntary,no hard feelings, nothing held against you if you’re not here. All we said was if you weren’t going to be here please make sure we know that you won’t be or if you are going to miss a day. That’s all we asked about him.”
Jones-Drew is entering his 7th season. He has 6,854 yards rushing, 2,473 yards receiving and 74 total touchdowns. He carried a career-high 343 times last season, averaging 4.7 yards even though defenses knew he was the point of interest of Jacksonville’s offense.
It is smart that he would want a new contract after a job year. And, he’s considered underpaid compared to some of the league’s other top backs. Johnson is getting $13.5 million annually. Foster is making $8.7 million a year. And Lynch is earning $7.75 yearly. St. Louis’ Steven Jackson, Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson also make more than Jones-Drew.
“I think he knows the right way to condition himself at this point in his career,” Mularkey declared. “We’d like him to be here, but again, for some reason” he isn’t.
“When Maurice gets here, he goes to work,” tight end and college teammate Marcedes Lewis declared. “Definitely, he’s doing things his way at this time. Hopefully we’ll get him out here soon. It’s what it is. I’m not angry at him. It’s the decisions you make. I know Maurice works hard, so after he gets here he’s going to be on his horse.”