There’s not much middle ground between the Jaguars and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He wants a new contract, and owner Shad Khan says Jones-Drew isn’t getting one. To get Jones-Drew into camp, someone will have to blink.
We’ve seen this movie before. The two sides seem to be completely dug in. And then there are two possible endings. The player tucks tail ‘twixt the hamstrings and shows up — or the owner, G.M., or head coach decide that he’s had enough and just wants the player back.
The primary question is when will that happen? The secondary question is whether there will be an effort (successful or otherwise) to save face. For example, Khan could adjust the two remaining years on Jones-Drew’s current deal and claim that the player didn’t actually get a new contract. For example, Jones-Drew could be given most of the remaining cash on his contract ($4.45 million in 2012, $4.95 million in 2012) this year, the minimum salary next year, and language that voids the contract if he reaches certain performance levels in the coming season.
That way, he’d get more money now, and potentially become a free agent in March.
Regardless, we’re no longer buying the “honor your contract” argument. This isn’t a normal contract. The same system that lets the teams tear up contracts whenever they want also allows the players to take the calculated risk of holding out. If, after all, the NFL didn’t want players to have the ability to “violate” their contracts, the labor deal would contain a term that, for example, prevents the player from playing for any team in a given year if he doesn’t report to training camp on time.
Yes, the current system lets teams break contracts without repercussion. And it also lets players hold out, if they’re willing to pay daily fines of $30,000 and to refund specific bonus payments that are subject to forfeiture. Any player willing to assume that risk should be allowed to do so. If he guesses right regarding his value to the team, he may get what he wants, or at least something close to it.
The owners, of course, don’t have to give in. And it wouldn’t surprise us if the folks at 345 Park Avenue are urging Khan to hold firm. It also wouldn’t surprise us if Khan, with still-fresh feeling of gratitude to 345 Park Avenue for letting him into the club, is willing to take one for the 32-member team that doesn’t like it when players take advantage of their ability to get more by holding out.