It’s a well known secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers are very interested to sign running back Maurice Jones-Drew. However, it remains to be seen if he’s willing to accept a smaller role than in the past, and if the two sides can agree on the salary issue.
Jones-Drew has been a feature back or at least part of a two-headed monster for the Jacksonville Jaguars since entering the NFL in 2006. However, he has declined since going for 1606 yards in 2011, part of three consecutive years with 1300 yards or more. He ran for 414 yars in only six games in 2012 and was limited to 803 yards on 234 carries in 2013. Decline, or simply part of a team with a bad offensive line and a non-functioning passing game?
Whatever it was, it seems like his days as a feature back in a league turning away from these type of offenses are gone and behind him. The Steelers appreciate the running game, but they have Le’Veon Bell as their #1 guy, and the arrival of a three-time Pro Bowler and one time First-Team All-Pro isn’t going to change that dynamic.
Jones-Drew is meeting with the team, but a couple of things are still up in the air: Is he willing to take less money than in the past (he made $4.95 million last season), which is pretty much a must, and is he willing to become someone who takes 10 carries a ball game and spends most of the time on the bench?
The Steelers have only $2.31 million under the salary cap, but they’re not going to max out for Jones-Drew. What is likely is that they’ll be restructuring a few more deals if his demands are reasonable ($2 million a season???) with inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons being the most likely candidate with the $6.75 million he’ll be making next season. The Steelers might turn a big portion of that into a signing bonus, and spread the money over the final three years of his contract to reduce his 2014 cap hit.