Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 5/30/12

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 31: Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts aftrer a touchdown during the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 31, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
It may surprise some NFL fans to find out that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing in 2011 with 1,606 yards along with a league leading 343 carries.

He also remained productive as a pas receiver with 43 receptions for 373 yards, and scored 11 total touchdowns (eight rushing). He clearly was the centerpiece of a Jacksonville offense that had little else going for it last season.

Jones-Drew has not attended the team's OTAs up to this point, which is nothing new as he has traditionally skipped parts of the voluntary offseason program in favor of working out on his own at home in California.

But this time there is speculation his absence is attached to a desire for a contract extension, and the organization is acknowledging that the contract issue is playing a role in his absence.

Jones-Drew has two years left on his contract, and is due to make a combined $9.4 million over that time. He will be 29 years old when the contract ends, and definitely would like to be paid more along the lines of the league's other elite level running backs.

With that in mind let's look at some notable contracts running backs around the league have signed recently, with current age and terms of the deal (including guaranteed money).

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Age 27 - 7 years, $96 million ($36 million guaranteed)
Arian Foster, Houston Texans: Age 25 - 5 years, $43.5 million ($20.75 million guaranteed)
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: Age 23 - 5 years, $45 million ($20.765 million guaranteed) 
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: Age 26 - 6 years, $55.26 million ($30 million guaranteed)
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: Age 26 - 4 years, $31 million ($17 guaranteed)
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers: Age 29 - 5 years, $43 million ($21 guaranteed)


-All of the above deals have been signed over the last year or so, with McCoy, Foster and Lynch all agreeing to their new deals this offseason.

-It is noteworthy, and perhaps expected given the nature of the running back position, that many of these contracts are front-loaded in terms of guaranteed money. Also two of the most recent to sign, Foster and McCoy, are the youngest of this group and each received five-year deals. 

- Perhaps the best comparisons here for Jones-Drew, at least in terms of age, are Williams who signed his deal in 2011 at age 28, and Peterson, who is two days older that Jones-Drew. Johnson will turn 27 himself soon after the 2012 season starts.

- The fact Peterson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee late in the 2011 season, which has put his status for the start of 2012 in doubt, will certainly add to any apprehension teams have about signing running backs to long-term, lucrative contracts.

- It can be argued that Jones-Drew has a longer track record of good, consistent production than all of these backs, except perhaps Peterson.

Final Analysis

Jones-Drew has yet to say publicly that he wants a contract extension, and the team has said there have not been any discussions about a new deal. So the situation does not appear to be contentious at this point, but if Jones-Drew misses mandatory work as the summer goes on that could change dramatically.

Jones-Drew's leverage looks minimal with two years remaining on his current deal and the team likely sees it as not being an urgent matter. That said, new head coach Mike Mularkey would certainly like the most important player on his offense with the rest of the team and at the same level in terms of learning the new offensive scheme once training camp starts. 

So the front office may have to do what it will take to get Jones-Drew into the fold if he chooses to continue stay away.

Two other top-level running backs, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens and Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, are looking for new contracts this offseason as well. But both Rice and Forte can be franchise tagged by their teams for the 2012 season while talks of a long-term deal continue.

Rice and the Ravens seem to be having some sort of contract talks if the reports are true, and the type of deal he ultimately signs could set the bar for what Jones-Drew and his representatives would be looking to get in their own deal even though Rice is two years younger.

Forte and the Bears do not seem to have made much progress in contract talks, and the team seems to be trying to de-value him with a report out they are concerned about his knees along with the signing of Michael Bush away from the Oakland Raiders in free agency this offseason. Forte will turn 27 in December, so he is also comparable age to Jones-Drew.

Of course all of this will look like a moot point if Jones-Drew shows up for mandatory offseason work, which he is practically certain to do even if he wants a contract extension. But his desire for a new contract is not likely to go away, and this may just be the beginning.

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