Maurice Jones-Drew readies for free agency

Al Messerschmidt

The Jaguars are letting the superstar running back test the free agent waters. Will he find teams receptive to paying big bucks after injuries and two forgettable seasons?

At a glance, there's plenty of reason to think that Maurice Jones-Drew would demand a huge contract on the free agency market. After all, there aren't many 28-year-old running backs that are allowed to reach the open market after three Pro Bowl seasons, more than 8,000 yards rushing and 81 touchdowns.

However, his value as a player is decidedly less than it was before injuries hampered his 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Sure, he's 28, but it definitely feels as though he's been around the NFL for much longer after eight seasons. And with 2,233 touches over that span, including rushes, receptions, kick and punt returns, Jones-Drew is already 41st in NFL history in the category and fifth among active players.

That's plenty of wear and there's been some tear to match. A Lisfranc injury limited Jones-Drew to just 86 rushing attempts in 2012 and the delayed surgery may have played a factor in a career-worst year in 2013. After averaging at least 4.2 yards per carry in each of the seven seasons prior, Jones-Drew managed just 3.4 per carry.

If he bounced back from injury to be productive though, it wouldn't be the first time for Jones-Drew. He led the NFL in rushing and earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2011 after a torn meniscus cost him the final two games of 2010 and required knee surgery to repair.

He's convinced he can do it again too, as he told Terrell Davis in an NFL Network interview that he is finally at 100 percent after cutting some weight.

It doesn't sound like it'll be the Jaguars rolling the dice that he'll return to form. The team has already said that they will let the three-time Pro Bowler reach free agency, and if he receives a solid offer on the open market his days with Jacksonville will be through.

Which teams would be willing to take that chance, though?

New York Giants

The running back position was a disaster of sorts for the Giants, who finished 29th in the NFL in rushing. While David Wilson was supposed to be the long-term fixture at the position, his future in the NFL is cloudy after neck surgery and lackluster production during his time on the field.

Beyond Wilson, the running back by committee for the Giants wasn't successful either, as Andre BrownPeyton HillisBrandon Jacobs and Michael Cox didn't inspire much for the team.

That leaves a vacancy to fill at the position and the NFL Draft might not be their solution of choice. Instead, the Giants could hit the free agency market. Jones-Drew is the type of veteran that could gel with an offense led by Eli Manning and a strong passing game.

Oakland Raiders

Jones-Drew is a Bay Area native. A contract with the Raiders would mean a homecoming for the player who had a legendary career at De La Salle High School before traveling south to UCLA. That likely won't help the Raiders' evaluation of Jones-Drew much, but it could certainly be a tiebreaker for a player that travels back to California during the offseason.

The Raiders will likely need to add talent at the position too, as Darren McFadden will almost certainly be in a different uniform in 2014.

McFadden's career with the Raiders was hampered by injuries, and Jones-Drew has managed to play in 14 or more games in seven of eight seasons. While injuries have racked up recently for Jones-Drew, if the Raiders believe he can manage to stay healthy, he could provide a solid addition for a team that relied heavily on Jones-Drew's former backup, Rashad Jennings, in 2013.

Cleveland Browns

You'd have a really tough time arguing that the Trent Richardson trade was a loss for the Browns, as they found just as much production elsewhere following the deal. Still, there isn't much of a presence in the Cleveland backfield.

Willis McGahee averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, and is set to reach free agency. No other player on the team's roster accumulated more than 50 carries.

With a tremendous amount of cap space to work with, the Browns wouldn't have much trouble bringing in another back to fill the void left by Richardson's sudden departure.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were very active during the 2013 offseason, but didn't receive the offensive production to show for it. Most of that can be traced to offensive line struggles, but the running back tandem of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas didn't provide much reason for hope either.

With Jones-Drew, the Dolphins could add a veteran back to pair with Miller and also give Ryan Tannehill one of the best pass blocking backs in the NFL to help add some additional protection in the backfield.

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