- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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One of the things I like best about this job is that any time there’s even a rumbling that a player might be on the trading block, the questions start coming.
It generally doesn’t matter who the player is. Would the ____ be interested? And you can fill in the blank with the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers or Saints.
I haven’t gotten a single question about if the Panthers, Saints or Buccaneers might be interested in Jones-Drew. That’s mainly because the Panthers and Saints already have an abundance of quality running backs and the Bucs are hoping rookies Doug Martin and Michael Smith can help push them into that category.
The Atlanta fans, however, have been out in full force. They aren’t simply asking about potential interest in Jones-Drew. They’re going ahead and suggesting terms of the trade -- Jones-Drew in exchange for Michael Turner, straight up.
I can see some of the reasons for the rapid speculation. New Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had a lot of success with Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. New Atlanta coach Mike Mularkey had a lot of success with Turner when he was offensive coordinator in Atlanta. Jones-Drew would bring a lot more variety to Atlanta’s backfield. Turner could bring stability to Jacksonville’s backfield and that’s important as Mularkey tries to develop second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
But there are more compelling reasons why I don’t see Jones-Drew ending up in Atlanta. Let’s run through them:
1. Do you really think the Jaguars would give up Jones-Drew for Turner? Jones-Drew is 27 and Turner is 30. That’s a huge age difference when you’re talking about running backs. Their value simply isn’t the same. The Falcons would have to give up more than Turner to get Jones-Drew.
2. I’m not sure the Falcons really need Jones-Drew. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is a tremendous running back. He led the NFL in rushing yards last season and he also can catch the ball out of the backfield. The Falcons already have made it clear they don’t want Turner getting more than 300 carries this season. The automatic assumption is they want to keep Turner fresh and there’s some truth to that. But I also think a big part of the reason the Falcons don’t want to run Turner so much is because they want to be more of a passing team. If they bring in Jones-Drew, they might be tempted to fall back on the running game and that would take away from the plans they have for Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez in the passing game.
3. I can’t help but wonder if the Falcons might look at this scenario and think about their recent history. They paid a lot of money to cornerback Dunta Robinson because he thought he might be the missing link to a Super Bowl championship. They did the same thing with defensive end Ray Edwards. They gave up a lot in terms of draft picks to get Jones last season. So far, the Falcons haven’t reached a Super Bowl. If they still were in the one-player-away mode, wouldn’t they have at least made a run at Mario Williams in free agency? There obviously is urgency for the Falcons to win big quickly, but they spent the offseason keeping what they had and tweaking it. It sure don’t seem like their current mindset would be to make an explosive move right before the start of the regular season.
4. The thing that’s being overlooked in all this is the very reason Jones-Drew is holding out in Jacksonville. He has two years remaining on his current contract and wants a new deal. When players like Jones-Drew hold out, it’s because they want to be among the top-paid players at their position. Adrian Peterson averages $14.2 million a season. Chris Johnson averages $13.5 million. Jones-Drew wants something comparable -- no matter where he plays. The Falcons really aren’t in a position to spend that kind of money. They already have $117 million committed toward a 2013 salary cap that’s likely to be somewhere around $123 million and they might have to factor in a contract extension for Ryan before then (and there's also the matter of re-signing some potential free agents and signing next year's draft class). Plus, let’s go back to Jones-Drew’s age. Do you really want to tie up huge money in a running back that’s averaged over 300 carries a season the past three years? Do you really want to tie up huge money in a guy that’s going to be in the same situation as Turner in two or three years?