So, why is there any question of whether the Jacksonville Jaguars should renegotiate their franchise player's contract?
Well, because he is a running back. Unfortunately for Jones-Drew, the potential for career-affecting injuries for running backs is far higher than any other position on the gridiron. Although players of Jones-Drew's caliber are hard to find in the NFL, his position typically has a short shelf life, which brings high risk to a franchise that spends a lot on a long-term contract.
In most cases, the high risk is not worth taking. But the Jaguars are in a unique position. They need to take the risk and pay their star rusher, who is now holding out from training camp.
Jones-Drew does not have a history of injury that should give Jacksonville any trouble sleeping over the next few seasons. He has only missed three NFL games in his six-season career, all while averaging nearly 250 carries a season.
The Jaguars have a young offense, with second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert at the helm. Without an effective rushing game, Gabbert will struggle to develop in Jacksonville's system under the pressure to carry an offense that has very few playmakers. Jones-Drew is really the Jaguars' only offensive threat. Without him, it's hard to see this team scoring more than once or twice a game, at the expense of risking their young quarterback's progression in the NFL.
Jones-Drew is Jacksonville's leader, and the Jaguars need him to continue to be an example to the rest of the team. The Jaguars' latest first-round draft pick, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, was recently arrested for drunken driving and is the type of player that could blossom into one of the NFL's best deep threats if given proper guidance from a leader like Jones-Drew. Plus, Blackmon has still not signed his rookie contract — a move that could happen faster if Jones-Drew and the Jaguars work out a new deal first.
But ultimately, the Jaguars need to renegotiate Jones-Drew's deal because of the state of the franchise. Jacksonville is a small-market NFL team that doesn't receive much national attention and hasn't reached the playoffs since losing to the New England Patriots in 2005. After the team was sold to Shahid Khan in 2011, there were plenty of rumors that the team could move to a more lucrative market such as Los Angeles. If the team doesn't have its star player, Jaguars fans can expect those rumors to linger.
This fan base hasn't had much to cheer for outside of Jones-Drew. He is worth the risk. The Jaguars need him to sell tickets and keep fans interested — but they also need him to win.