It's that time of year. No, not Christmas shopping or visiting family for the holidays. It's time for NFL holdouts. And an interesting one is taking place between the Jacksonville Jaguars and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
This past week, Jones-Drew was obligated to report for the Jags' mandatory minicamp. He failed to show and may be fined up to $60,000.
He was willing to report, however, but only if Jacksonville inked him a new deal.
Jones-Drew signed a five-year, $30.95 million deal in 2009. And set to earn $4.45 of that figure, he wants more. In fact, Jones-Drew has no intention of showing for any offseason or preseason workouts until he gets a new deal.
He may even hold out into the regular season, according to Jaguars beat writer Tania Ganguli.
Jags general manager Gene Smith has also made his position clear to Jones-Drew.
"Obviously, he has expressed that he would like to renegotiate and we have expressed again that we feel he has a contract with two years left that we expect him to fulfill those obligations," Smith said.
Jones-Drew's position is entirely understandable. He's the benchmark of the Jaguars offense, he led the NFL in rushing last season (1,606 yards), made three consecutive Pro Bowls and is getting paid less than the likes of Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson and Marshawn Lynch.
And in a profession where contracts mean little—each season players are cut by teams despite having years remaining on their contracts, and teams often renegotiate contracts with years remaining on them each year—it's expected for Jones-Drew to demand top-dollar for his outstanding performance.
Besides, the shelf-life for a running back in the NFL is rather short. Once they hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark, they witness their demise quite rapidly. (Jones-Drew is 27 years old). They have to cash in while they can.
And typically, Jones-Drew would have the scales tipped in his favor after such a illustrious career in Jacksonville and being the centerpiece of their offense. But one strange twist negates his success: the Jaguars' lack of success.
Despite MJD leading the league in rushing, Jacksonville finished the season with a dismal 5-11 record. In fact, the Jaguars haven't won their division (AFC South) in over a decade—twelve years to be exact. They simply are not a good football team.
So when GM Gene Smith is evaluating the effect Jones-Drew's holdout will have on his team, ultimately, it's minimal. This is not the case of quarterback Drew Brees holding out with the New Orleans Saints, or running back Ray Rice playing hardball with the Baltimore Ravens. Those teams have their sights set on the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl.
If Jones-Drew doesn't play for the Jags in 2012, they finish maybe 4-12. If he does play for the Jags, they finish around 5-11. Either way, with the offense they have put together, success is not in their immediate future. The AFC South belongs to some other team.
So with the lowered expectations of the Jaguars organization, and the fact that they don't have much to lose from a lengthy holdout by MJD, the scales tip back in Jacksonville's favor.
And that's why GM Gene Smith can issue such plain, clear-cut statements to the fantasy football-loving running back.
"Our expectation with any player that's under contract is for them to fulfill their obligations," Smith said. "In terms of our position, he's got two years remaining."
Smith's words sound more like a judge issuing a prison sentence rather than an exciting opportunity to play in the NFL. The Jags may just be that bad.