By Eric Schmidt

Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew is delusional in his assessment of the free agency market for running backs in the NFL currently. Jones-Drew has been a very productive back who unfortunately played on a horrible team. He is now approaching the dreaded 30-years of age mark in his career. The veteran has stated that he believes big pay days for running backs will be returning to the league. I don’t see that happening, ever again. Adrian Peterson secured the last massive contract a running back will ever get in the NFL moving forward.

Jones-Drew hit the open market this year, and just like the other high profile names out there this season, he had to wait for his name to be called in free agency. Teams are no longer clamoring for free agent running backs approaching 30 years of age. As the league pushes more and more forward towards a passing league, Jones-Drew seems stuck in the past, thinking that big pay days will be forthcoming, possibly as soon as next offseason.

Running backs were once the centerpiece of the NFL game. With liberal rule changes in the passing game, teams with any serviceable quarterback now treat running backs like a rent-a-car. Get them for cheap, and ditch them at the end of the ride.

Last season, the Carolina Panthers surprised the NFL by winning the NFC South division. Don’t look for that to happen again this year. The franchise made bad decisions in recent years by handing out massive contracts to running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and the club is now hamstrung with salary cap issues.

Jones-Drew told sfgate.com that the veteran running back market will rebound.

“There was no one proven on the free-agent market but me, and I am 29,” Jones-Drew said. “I am 29, coming off a major foot injury, and people say I had a bad year – ‘He’s done.’ I don’t think the running back position has been devalued. It’s the toughest position in the league, and people saw again last year in the playoffs how important the running game is. Running the ball is all that matters.”Toby Gerhart and Ben Tate “have both been backups. Why would a team give them a bunch of money? I guarantee the money will go back up for running backs next year. It’s just a down year.”

Memo to MJD. The reason that Toby Gerhart and Ben Tate got the contracts that they received, is because they were basically backups in the system they played. Jones-Drew was the primary offensive weapon for the inept Jacksonville Jaguars. These players are effective runners, but have much less workload on their treads than Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew has 1,800 career carries. Gerhart has 276, Ben Tate, 421. Both are younger than Jones-Drew.

There is something to be said about the curse of the 370. We are going old school with this illustration. Footballoutsiders.com has demonstrated the curse of the 370. While this article clearly illustrates the lack of performance after a back carries the ball 370 time or more in a season, MJD touched the ball 386 times combined in 2011. His production went downhill in the following two seasons, appearing in just 21 games between 2012-2013.

I believe running back is now the quickest possible avenue to reach the NFL. Late round picks, undrafted free agents. Just don’t expect a long tenured career in the league, because everyone carrying the rock is replaceable. And it seems they come cheap these days.

Jones-Drew would be wise put some money away during his time in Oakland, this will likely be his last contract. Shut up about matters regarding football, and just go play ball.

 

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