Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Khan passing first test as NFL owner

Shad Khan is facing a tough situation and handling it brilliantly
BY David Villavicencio

School is back in session but there have been tests in Jacksonville for almost a month.

Jaguars star Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out as he tries to get the Jaguars to re-negotiate his contract but team owner Shahid Khan is not giving in to MJD's demands.

Khan was quoted saying Jones-Drew's absence "doesn't even move the needle" in terms of stress. He reiterated his stance Tuesday by saying, "This is not a team about one person."

Khan has spoken out about his disdain for Jones-Drew's holdout and that prompted Jones-Drew's agent, Adisa Bakari, to give his client's side of the story.

"Maurice wants to play for an organization that wants him and for an owner who respects him and values what he brings to a team -- on the field, in the locker room and in the community," Bakari said.

Jones-Drew, who has two years remaining on his current contract, is trying to leverage the Jaguars into negotiating a long-term deal with him. Holding out for nearly a month, the 27-year-old Jones-Drew is costing himself money by not being with the team. He has accrued nearly $1 million in fines and lost bonuses from his holdout already.

The league leader in rushing yards last season, Jones-Drew has proven to be one of the premier running backs in the NFL. Jones-Drew is entering his seventh season. He has 6,854 yards rushing, 2,473 yards receiving and 74 total touchdowns. He carried a career-high 343 times last season, averaging 4.7 yards even though defenses knew he was the focal point of Jacksonville's offense.

Khan called Jones-Drew "a great player" and said "we would love for him to be back." But that does not mean that he is entitled to a new contract. Khan and general manager Gene Smith insist they have no plans to negotiate a new deal with MJD, not wanting to set a precedent of paying players with two years remaining on lucrative deals that included large signing bonuses. 

Jones-Drew may not even be on the Jags' bench this season
The Jaguars feel Jones-Drew needs to honor his current contract, after all, he agreed to it in 2009. If Jones-Drew chooses to continue his hold out, Khan is prepared to move forward without his team's star.

"Train's leaving the station. Run, get on it," Khan said.

Jones-Drew's camp has leaked word that the three-time All-Pro would be open to a trade. But Khan quickly shut down that possibility saying he was "not going to get into all the theses and hypotheses."

While I understand that every player is looking out for his best interests, I applaud Khan and the Jaguars for refusing to cave to their star's threats. Players need to be accountable.

Jones-Drew was more than happy to sign his current deal three years ago. Now it is not good enough for him because he knows he will be 29 and unlikely to land a big deal when his current one expires. He should have thought about that when he signed his current contract. He was always going to be 29 following the 2014 season. Maybe he should have signed for three years instead of five and tried to earn another big deal at age 27.

Now that Jags have all the power and all the leverage. They have a contract. If Jones-Drew doesn't show up before Week 10 of this season, he will not get credit for playing this year and the two years remaining on his deal will roll over. The Jags have nothing to lose. Some say they will lose more games without MJD. They were going to lose plenty of games with him too.

Now it is up to Jones-Drew to decide what is best for him. He already appears to be softening on his stance, saying he would be open to reconciling with the team. What he really means is he is realizing that he is not going to get what he wants and he is starting to understand that it is in his best interests to show up and collect on his current contract instead of get fined trying to get a new one.

Bravo, Shahid Khan. You already passed your first test as an NFL owner.