Monday, May 11, 2009

Uh oh: Jones Not the Only Back Angry about Contract

On paper, runningback might be the least of the Jets' probems. They return the leading AFC rusher as well as one of the most dynamic backs in the game, and they drafted a runningback in the third round.

But as you probably know, Thomas Jones is not happy about his contract. What is new is that Leon Washington skipped the first day of OTA's. Even though he said his contract situation would not be a problem, a person close to Washington called the Jets' initial offer "insulting,"prompting Washington to skip OTA's.

The key date for these disputes will be June 9. The Jets will hold a mandatory mini-camp between June 9-11, and if either back doesn't show up, there may be a problem. Mike Tannenbaum has said since day one he expects Jones to be there when he has to be. I imagine he would say the same about Washington.

Either way, the easy plan of the three-back system this year giving way to a Washington-Shonn Greene combination in 2010 now has a huge monkey wrench.

With Jones, the answer is easy. Giving a 31 year old runningback a big long-term deal is stupid.
Even with his comparatively light workload, Jones is at a very dangerous age for runningbacks, and even before the acquisition of Greene, he was probably gone after this year barring a restructure.

Washington provides a much different problem. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract where he makes a $535,000 base salary. He's looking for a contract in the vicinity of $6 million dollars per year.

A TGG poster named Br4dw4y5ux sums up the situation perfectly.

Leon is in the same situation Kellen Clemens is in: the CBA is out for next year and so he'll be an RFA instead of a UFA barring a miracle. The question is whether he's Brian Westbrook or Bruce Harper plus.

If he's Brian Westbrook you lock him up to whatever deal you have to do, and figure he'll tandem with Shonn Greene for the next 5 years or so. If he's Bruce Harper plus it's a tougher question, because that's still a great player but not one you can break the bank over.
Washington has never been given a chance at a feature back role, primarily because of his size, but his yards-per-carry as well as his kick return ability both show his value to the Jets. He's been productive when he's got his chances, and he could turn into a Westbrook or a Tiki Barber or even a Warrick Dunn in a feature role.

But if he's just a glorified change-of-pace back, someone like Harper, he's still worth keeping, but that type of deal would clearly be overpaying him.

It's a tough question because he's never really gotten hurt, but at 5'8", 202 pounds, the fear is there that he will, and putting a lot of faith and cash into a back who has never fully carried the load and doesn't have prototypical size is a risk. Still, at 202 pounds, he is built.

In the end I expect the Jets to lock him up during the season.

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