Jets’ Backfield Depth Gives Team Leverage, Options


Jul 20, 2009

With rookie Mark Sanchez battling Kellen Clemens for the Jets’ starting quarterback job, there’s a bit of a quarterback controversy in New York.

But the running back situation is even more convoluted than the signal-caller competition in Rex Ryan’s first season as head coach.

In terms of contract negotiations, players coming off productive seasons typically have leverage against their respective teams. But the Jets’ running back duo of Leon Washington and Thomas Jones seems to be suffering from the main principle of Economics 101 — supply and demand.

Jones had a career year as New York’s feature back in 2008, compiling 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns on 290 attempts, good for a 4.5 yards per rush — a full half-yard better than his career average.
Washington averaged 5.9 yards per rush in ’08 in predominantly a third-down role, scoring six offensive touchdowns plus one on a kickoff return.

All would be fine for the twosome if it weren’t for the Jets’ newest investment, former Iowa Hawkeye Shonn Green, who led the Big Ten in rushing in 2008 and whom the Jets traded up to select with the first pick of the third round in this year’s draft. Greene signed his rookie contract – four years, $2.655 million – on June 15. Needless to say, by adding Greene to the mix, the Jets’ backfield has become more crowded than the Packers’ season-ticket waiting list.

For the Jets, the Greene acquisition makes sense, seeing that both Jones and Washington will have contract dilemmas following the 2009 season – if they don’t exist already.

Washington is due $535,000 in ’09, the final year of his rookie contract. He’s already looking for an extension and may decide to hold out of the Jets’ mandatory minicamp.

Jones is in the third year of a four-year deal. He’s only making $900,000 in ‘09, but he’s due a hefty $3 million bonus prior to 2010, making this season essentially a contract year for the former Virginia Cavalier, assuming there are no contract reconstructions between now and next summer.

So the Jets have options. They can extend Washington’s stay. They can pay Jones and keep him on board. They can ditch both veterans and hand Greene the reins in 2010. Or they can exploit any combination or permutation of the three.

It’s simple supply and demand. The Jets have the production, the supply and the leverage when dealing with their post-2009 backfield. But don’t be surprised if Greene’s the only one left by then.

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