The reigning NFL rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out due to a contract dispute from the Jacksonville Jaguars and, while he has not demanded a trade, he has implied that he would be open to being traded. While I still think that MJD will remain in Jacksonville, the team’s new ownership does not want his contract situation hanging over their young group of players, and will likely listen to trade offers for their star running back. I am sure that several teams around the league have called the Jaguars within the last 24 hours and offered lowball trade proposals for MJD, however there are teams that are rumored to have serious interest in the star tailback, who I think would consider making a legitimate offer to get the trade done. I doubt that any team would trade a first round pick for the 27 year old running back, however he is one of the best in the league, and I think a second rounder plus mid-round pick would suffice, as Jacksonville wants this situation to be over with as soon as possible. Here are the teams I have who could potentially be interested in MJD ranked by how realistic the possibility of a trade actually is:
1 ) Detroit Lions – The Lions have serious injury concerns at running back, to the point where they moved a career return man Stefan Logan to running back and have given him carries this preseason. Maurice Jones-Drew is far better than any of the running backs on the Lions current roster anyway, but several players on the Lions depth chart are dealing with significant injuries. Projected starter Kevin Smith is always an injury risk, and he is again dealing with an ankle injury, while second year big back Mikel Leshore is returning from an Achilles tendon tear that cost him his entire rookie season and is experiencing hamstring issues. Once promising running back Javid Best’s career is in doubt, as he attempts to return from multiple serious concussions. Detroit should be very strong offensively this season, however the addition of a player like MJD would make them Super Bowl contenders and add a new element to their offense, plus give them stability at the shakiest position on their roster.
2 ) Denver Broncos – With the addition of 36 year old future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, the Broncos have committed to going into “Win-Now mode” for the next few seasons, thus they will not be afraid to add a running back with a lot of carries under his belt who is still in his prime. Denver has a lot of running backs in camp, but adding one who is the caliber of MJD would increase the chances of winning a Super Bowl during the Peyton Manning era. Starting tailback Willis McGahee will turn 31 during the 2012 season, and has a lot of red flags in his injury history, while former first round pick Knowshon Moreno has never developed and seems to have fallen out of favor with management and the coaching staff. Rookie Ronnie Hillman has some potential down the road, however if the Broncos are serious about winning the Super Bowl with Manning under center, the addition of MJD would be a huge step in the right direction.
3 ) San Diego Chargers – The Chargers would not have been included on this list, however starting tailback Ryan Matthews broke his collarbone on the first carry of their first preseason game, and he is likely out until midseason (he swears he will play week one, but this is a 6-8 week injury). After losing big back and noted touchdown vulture Mike Tolbert to the Carolina Panthers in free agency, the Chargers do not have a lot of depth behind Matthews, and will likely go with some combination of veterans Ronnie Brown, Le’Ron McClain and Jackie Battle until Matthews is able to return. The team will likely elect to patiently wait for Matthews to return from his injury and attempt to win with the combination previously listed until he can return, but if it turns out that he will be on the shelf longer than expected, the Chargers could make an offer for MJD to fill that void, and make a nice 1-2 punch at tailback upon Matthews return.
4 ) Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers love to run the football, but will likely find it very difficult to accomplish in 2012, with serious injuries to their running backs. Starting tailback Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in the 2011 season finale against the Cleveland Browns and likely will not be ready until midseason at best, while his primary backup Isaac Redman is dealing with a groin/hip injury. This leaves Jonathan Dwyer, who is playing through some injury issues himself, and speedy rookie Chris Rainey as the team’s top options in the backfield. It would be very un-Steelers-like to trade for MJD, or any player, during the season but they should at least consider solidifying the position on the trade market.
5 ) New York Jets – The Jets have to be drooling right now, unlike the Steelers they absolutely love acquiring proven star players on the trade market and in free agency, and they have committed to a running based offense in 2012 with the acquisition of quarterback Tim Tebow. Their current depth chart at running back is solid, but lacks any star power, starter Shonn Greene is decent but will never be a star. Behind Greene on the depth chart is Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell and rookie Terrence Gannaway. Rex Ryan has to be thinking that, if he can get MJD cheap enough, he would be a game changing addition that would take the Jets offense to new heights. I would not be remotely shocked if the Jets attempted to acquire Jones-Drew on the trade market, I’d like to believe they will stick with their current depth chart, but have seen the organization make too many moves like this to know they are considering it. MJD would be a welcome addition to Rex Ryan’s Big Top Circus.
6 ) Washington Redskins – The Washington Redskins committed to quarterback Robert Griffin III when they traded up to the second pick in April’s draft to acquire him, however, the rookie quarterback could really use the services of Maurice Jones-Drew in the running game. Owner Dan Snyder loves acquiring star players and high-priced free agents, and since his team lacks any quality starting running backs (currently Roy Helu, Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and rookie Alfred Morris are competing for the starting job) he would jump at the chance to acquire a back the quality of MJD. One problem, the Redskins had to pay a King’s Ransom to trade up in the draft to acquire RGIII, and have little of value to offer on the trade market. Any other team in the league could blow a Redskins trade offer off of the map, so unless the Redskins get really creative or start offering good players from their already thin depth chart, this trade is not going to happen.
7 ) New York Giants – Much like the Steelers, trading for any player including MJD, would be very un-Giants-like. Both teams believe in their personnel and and prefer to build through the draft, than through trades and high-priced free agent acquisitions. However, the Giants lost longtime big back Brandon Jacobs in free agency this past offseason, and will rely heavily on the injury plagued Ahmad Bradshaw at running back this season. The Giants invested a first round draft pick on tailback David Wilson and seem to be confident in veteran D.J. Ware, so they will likely stand pat, however the addition of MJD would increase the Giants chances of defending the Super Bowl title.
8 ) Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals let longtime tailback Cedric Benson leave in free agency this offseason, and while he has started to slow down, his carries and durability will be hard to replace. The Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to become their starting tailback in free agency, but coming from the Patriots, he has never proven that he can carry the load of an every down back. Behind “The Law Firm” on the depth chart, the Bengals have nothing to be proud of, veterans Bernard Scott and rookie Dan Herron are probably the first two players off the bench. Cincinnati has a strong young team that is going places, however the addition of a running back who is as good as MJD would be a huge upgrade to their offense, and be a huge help to second year quarterback Andy Dalton.
9 ) Atlanta Falcons – How scary would Matt Ryan’s offensive weapons be with Roddy White and Julio Jones at wide receiver and Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield? The Falcons have tailback Michael Turner on the roster, but he is breaking down after many carries over the years, and would look a lot better as a short yardage option behind MJD. Atlanta has decent depth at running back with Jaquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, but they would become instant contenders with MJD in the mix.
10 ) Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys have DeMarco Murray at running back, but he has injury concerns, and the team has never loved his backup Felix Jones. As we know, when a star player hits the trade market, you can never count out Jerry Jones. The Cowboys are short on trade assets after trading up in April’s draft to land LSU cornernack Morris Claiborne, but if Jerry Jones wants MJD, expect him to DL everything in his power to land him in Dallas.