Thoughts on the loss of Thomas Jones to this team in 2010.
Right Place, Right Time — Thomas Jones was Mike Tannenbaum’s first real big trade for a player. The deal consisted of the Jets and Bears swapping some second rounders, (net of one third rounder from a value standpoint). Think about that for a second. The Jets got a guy who led the backfield for three years as a savvy veteran and was an integral leader to this team for the price of a third round pick. Yes please. When the history book is written on Tannenbaum’s career, I think this was the first move that we saw from the Jets in which they went against the convention of overvaluing draft picks in exchange for veteran players … Kris Jenkins, Lito Sheppard, and even Braylon Edwards could be bundled into this building strategy the Jets have used well in recent years.
The Age Defying Effect— Beyond his intense conditioning, if you take a close look at Jones career, he wasn’t used heavily in his first few years in Arizona, and because of that, he’s been able to play at a high level until this year. Still, I think that the Jets saw this coming to a close at the end of this season. We saw that in the Colts postseason game. Once the onus was on him, he was unable to run effectively enough to provide a counter to the Colts run stoppers. I don’t think this will change dramatically going forward. Jones might start the year strong, but by the end of next season, he’s not going to be a guy that the team could guarantee he would be reliable …
The Productivity Was Lagging — Running for under four yards a carry is not a good sign for running backs. Jones has been doing just this a lot, with one of the best blocking units in the game ahead of him. Football Outsiders ranked Jones just 24th against a replacement level player (so only 9 spots away from the “backup” level — the 33rd player in the league) and was 32nd in terms of his value in any given situation when he touched the ball. That’s not a good sign, as his numbers will continue to decrease in coming years. I like Jones a lot, and I think that he’ll be a contributor wherever he lands in 2010. 1,400+ yards and 14 TDs was pretty impressive, but people look at his 2009 statistics and use it as a benchmark that he can continue to do it. I don’t think that’s a smart idea.
The Economics Were Against Staying — At his salary and bonus amount, the team just wasn’t going to get what they were going to pay for on the field. After last year asking for a restructure and being rebuffed, there was no way that Thomas Jones was going to agree to a pay cut from Mike Tannenbaum. And I don’t blame him for a minute. It remains to be seen what Jones can command on the open market, but it seems Jones and Rosenhaus feel better about what they can get there than whatever the Jets were offering. Good luck to them in getting a better deal.
Factor in the Lockout — The League and the Union might well avoid a lockout, they’ve got a year to do it, but the threat of a potential lockout probably makes Thomas Jones realize that 2010 is even that much more important from a salary standpoint for him. He might not play in 2011, and it’s not like there’s that much football left for him as a 34 year old running back in 2012, presuming that’s when the league would return from a potential lockout.
Leadership Concerns — I’m sure the void will be filled by someone, but Jones was the vocal leader of this unit.
The Depth of the Draft — Watching Combine coverage Sunday, Mike Mayock gushed that he thought that running back was a position of extreme depth in this draft. With the influx of undersclassman in this draft, the Jets could grab a nice piece way down the draft board to help chip in behind Leon and Shonn. I think that economically, this allows them to spend the money they would otherwise have spent on Jones re-working the deal of someone like Revis or Mangold.