When Thomas Jones’ relationship soured with Chicago Bears management, his grief was perfectly understandable. Jones wanted his contributions to be reflected in his paycheck, and rightfully so.
His career was rejuvenated in Chicago, and the Bears took on a new identity off the strength of his legs. And the Bears showed their appreciation by drafting a running back with their top pick in 2005.
Not only did Cedric Benson enter the league with arrogance, expecting to take Jones’ job away, but he was being compensated much better than the running back who was fresh off a seven-touchdown season.
How did Jones respond?
Jones, 27, has two seasons remaining on his contract, at base salaries of $2.25 million each for 2006 and 2007, but left the voluntary workouts in early April and did not return until the mandatory minicamp began.
The familiarity of it all is devastating. Everyone knows how important voluntary workouts are. The “voluntary” portion is an irrelevant adjective. Players show up, or the coaches raise their eyebrows and find ways to make life difficult when it’s mandatory. No surprises there.
It’s still too soon to call this issue with Jones a “trend,” but the fact that it has happened in the past is enough to paint a picture of how this scenario is going to turn out.
He’ll be disgruntled, skip a few more voluntary meetings, and make everyone sweat—only to show up when it absolutely matters most. But don’t expect the Jets to budge or for Jones to make it get too ugly.
The truth is he doesn’t have the right negotiation stance to demand a new contract. Fresh off a successful 2008 season, Jones’ production is magnified because of the dismal 2007 campaign. The Jets re-built their offensive line with the best available veterans, secured a fullback who’s made a career out of opening lanes for Pro Bowl runners, and the yardage followed for Jones.
Most importantly, he benefited greatly from the drop-off in production in the entire AFC. Jones’ established a new career-high in his touchdown category, but his rushing production was right in-line with where he was at his best with Chicago.
When Tannenbaum worked his magic to steal Jones away from Chicago, the new contract he received paid him accordingly for where his production was. It was fairly lucrative deal, averaging out to $5 million per year over four seasons. It wasn’t top running back money, because—realistically—he wasn’t a top running back.
If we’re being honest, Thomas Jones’ successful season is right in-line with the expectations Jets’ fans had when he was acquired to begin with!
Fighting management and looking for better compensation may be familiar ground for Jones, but the chips aren’t in his favor as much as they were in Chicago. The dispute isn’t as interesting this time, though. It’s only prolonging the inevitable.
See you in camp, TJ.