Monday, February 16, 2009
Taylor, set to make $6M, cut by Jags
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Running back Fred Taylor wanted to end his career in Jacksonville, hoping to join the small list of standout players who spent an entire career with the same team.
He won't get the chance.
AFC South blog
Fred Taylor might be expensive and aging but the veteran back's leadership will be missed in the Jaguars' locker room, Paul Kuharsky writes. Blog
The Jaguars released Taylor on Monday, parting ways with their all-time leading rusher after 11 seasons and continuing the team's offseason makeover.
Coach Jack Del Rio flew to Fort Lauderdale earlier Monday to meet with Taylor and deliver the news. Del Rio made it clear the team has no plans to re-sign Taylor, who turned 33 last month and was scheduled to make $6 million next season.
"We felt like the best thing for this football team is what it has to be about," Del Rio said. "We feel good about the talented group of backs that we have ... and as you work through it, it's difficult to come up with a role that's going to be acceptable for everybody.
"It makes it awkward. It makes it difficult. We came to an agreement on what the best course of action was as a football team."
And that was to move on without Taylor, who ranks 16th on the NFL's career rushing list with 11,271 yards, 81 behind John Riggins.
What A Rush
Fred Taylor sure covered a lot of ground in 11 seasons with the Jags. The running back amassed 11,271 yards with Jacksonville, which is the fifth most rush yards a player has racked up for a single team in NFL history.
Taylor has said he would like to retire after passing Jim Brown (12,312) on the career list. Brown, Chicago's Walter Payton (16,726), Detroit's Barry Sanders (15,269) and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (11,760) are the only running backs ahead of Taylor who spent their entire careers with the same team.
Taylor was not available for comment Monday.
Releasing Taylor was no surprise since he had clearly become the second option behind Maurice Jones-Drew. But deciding to not even try to bring back the longtime team captain was somewhat shocking, especially since the Jaguars endured chemistry issues last season after letting go of some veterans and bringing in high-priced free agents Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence.
The Jaguars released Porter and Florence last week. They also parted ways with longtime personnel chief James "Shack" Harris, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson and a few other assistants.
Taylor was next in line.
Del Rio said it was time to turn the offense over to Jones-Drew, a 5-foot-7 dynamo who has scored 40 touchdowns in three years. Former second-round pick Greg Jones also is expected to see more touches.
"This was a difficult decision to come to, but a decision that had to be made despite how we all feel about Fred," general manager Gene Smith said. "We all respect and appreciate what Fred has done, and we feel that he can still play in the NFL, but in our current situation we believe this is the right move at this time."
Taylor, the ninth overall pick in 1998 from Florida, made his first Pro Bowl in 2007 after running for 1,202 yards and a career-best 5.4 yards a carry.
The Jaguars had hoped to see the same production last season. But Taylor finished with 556 yards on the ground and averaged a career-low 3.9 yards a carry behind an injury-riddled offensive line. It became obvious -- even to Taylor -- that the team needed to get Jones-Drew involved more.
Taylor spent the final three games of the season on injured reserve after tearing ligaments in his left thumb.
Although Jacksonville never gauged trade interest in Taylor, Del Rio said he believes he will get a shot with another club.
"He's got some talent," Del Rio said. "I'm sure there is going to be some interest in him. I can't speak for other teams. I know Fred's done a great job taking care of his body and has been a complete stud in the time we've been here. I've said that several times. He's been a good teammate, he's been a guy that's all about winning and I've been impressed with the way that he's conducted himself since I've been here.
"You don't turn 33 without losing a step, but he's clearly worked hard. He's worked hard to allow himself to play at a high level. To hold off talented youngsters, you've got to do that, and he's worked his tail off to have that be the case."