One of the areas of concern for the Dallas Cowboys is their stalled running game. This despite having the NFL’s third leading rusher in DeMarco Murray after Week Four into the new season. One of the bigger names to recently hit the trade rumor market was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2011, Maurice Jones-Drew. The eight-year veteran reached the 10,000 total yards mark for his career on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Could Dallas solve their running problems bringing a stud like MJD into the mix? And is it financially feasible?
Sep 29, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) runs the ball past Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (23) and outside linebacker Erik Walden (93) during the first half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, general managers around the league believe the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to part ways with Jones-Drew before the October 29th trade deadline. The 28-year old running back is in the final year of a five-year, $30.95 million contract. Any team that trades for Jones-Drew will be on the hook for a portion of this years’ $4.95 million in base salary. According to Rotoworld, they believe MJD could be had for a low late round draft pick.
Unfortunately for Jones-Drew, his overall low production so far this season combined with his threats of possible retirement in the off-season might have NFL general managers thinking twice before picking up the phone to dial the “904” area code.
In the first five games of the new season, he has recorded 208 rushing yards on 74 carries. That’s a career low 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. Some of that blame goes on the offensive line, who aren’t creating holes for him to run through. And some on injury, as MJD has been dealing with a foot tendon strain he suffered in Week Two against the Oakland Raiders.
But it could be a simple as Jones-Drew has lost his passion for the game. Here’s what he told John Oehser of Jaguars.com, in the off-season:
"“There were a couple days during camp where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore’. Once the pain subsides and soreness goes away you’re ready to roll again. You fought through those first couple weeks. You were all saying I felt great. I had to lie to myself too and say that as well. Now I feel good. I’m ready to get out there and play.”"
It’s hard to blame the 5’7 UCLA alum, who just went through a tough 2012 season. After holding out and missing both training camp and the pre-season, Jones-Drew played in only six games last year due to a Lisfranc fracture injury. This after a 2011 Pro Bowl caliber season that saw him rush for 1,606 yards and eight touchdowns. That was his third straight Pro Bowl selection…and it looks like it will be his last. Although, he had his best game of the year so far on Sunday against the Rams rushing for 70 yards on 17 carries.
But many fans believe Jones’ recent slow start may simply be both age and his hard-nosed running style finally catching up to him. Many also believe he will not be back on the team next season, deciding instead to be a back-up somewhere in the league that has an established starter. Somewhere like Dallas perhaps?
Obviously, the Cowboys are stacked with young talent at the running back position. Behind Murray on the depth chart are second-year backs Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner. And then there is the rookie back out of Oklahoma State that Dallas drafted in the fifth round this year, Joseph Randle. Yet, both Dunbar and Tanner have disappointed so far this regular seasons with problems holding onto the ball. And Randle was just activated last week for the first time this season, but did not play. Could Dallas benefit from having a veteran like Jones’ in the backfield, even for just a year? Sure. But only at the right price.
Could Dallas even afford Jones-Drew at this point? According to Overthecap.com, the Cowboys currently have an estimated $1,672,933 in salary cap space. If accurate, that wouldn’t be enough to afford a player like MJD. But the Cowboys could always cut players and re-structure contracts to make it work. But is it worth taking a risk on a running back many believe may be past his prime and on the decline of his career? Even if he only costs the Cowboys a late round pick? Let me know what you think below: