All-Pro, controversy and the franchise tag not to be signed – such is life for Josh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders.
Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler may be new to the Silver and Black, but they’re no strangers to Josh Jacobs and his game—nor were they when they first landed in Sin City. When the duo took over Las Vegas in 2022, before officially training Jacobs for the first time, there was already great respect for The Raiders running back based on the research and scouting previously done with New England.
In March 2022, at the annual NFL Combine, McDaniels spoke of the respect he already had for Jacobs. “Excited to get an opportunity to coach this guy,” the Las Vegas head coach said.
Despite never having coached Jacobs before, McDaniels was well-acquainted with the Alabama alum’s game.
“It’s funny. When you do all the work you do on all the players in the draft and then you only have five or six of them on your team, the work you’ve put into all the other guys isn’t completely lost , when you have an opportunity like this.. And then you come to a new organization with a handful of the guys that you’ve done and worked on and really enjoyed because you’ve been through that process before, and Josh [Jacobs] would be one of those guys.”
Immediately after, McDaniels transitioned to what he likes about Jacobs.
“[Jacobs] Runs hard, can make plays on all three downs, can do things out of the backfield.. Definitely impacted this team in a lot of positive ways.”
Josh Jacobs And The Raiders: Spoken words say one thing, actions say another
As a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Jacobs’ contract had a fifth-year team option built into it. McDaniels, excited to coach Jacobs, had a decision to make — take the fifth-year team option or roll the dice by declining it. Both he and general manager Dave Ziegler felt it was best to go the final route by not signing up for the fifth year.
Then came the league’s first preseason contest.
In the Raiders’ first game of the preseason, Josh Jacobs not only played, but racked up a shockingly high amount of snaps. During the first quarter alone, the RB1 had seven touches as a team. This, combined with the decline in Jacobs’ fifth-year option, seemed to point toward McDaniels trading the team’s 24th overall draft pick in 2019.
McDaniels shot down the trade rumors as quickly as they came out.
“We have a lot of confidence in JJ,” McDaniels shared ESPN’s Kimberley Martin. “We don’t want to do that at all,” the Raiders head coach responded to talk of trading Jacobs.
Instead, McDaniels insisted that opting out of Jacobs’ fifth-year option was simply the best business move for the team. After all, he hadn’t actually trained the 25-year-old before; if things were not as he had imagined them, there was an easy escape. Conversely, if Jacobs turned out to be the exact player McDaniels hoped he would be, an immediate extension would make the most sense regardless.
This was indeed a sensible solution to approach an uncertain fate.
What good is proving you’re worth the money if the money never comes?
McDaniels wanted Jacobs to prove he deserved a payday. When you’ve never coached a player before, it’s incredibly reasonable to want to see what that player can do before making a long-term commitment. When that player outplays everyone else at his position, but it’s still not enough to earn the player an extension, the “incredibly sensible” line of thinking turns into incredibly questionable logic at best.
Starting his 2022 campaign without a new deal, Jacobs was motivated to earn a new contract at the end of the season. That motivation helped the fourth-year running back finish first in rushing yards (1,653) with over 100, first in first downs on the ground (93) with 28 and tied for fifth in yards per carry. rushing attempts (4.9) among players with at least 200 total rushes.
For his efforts, Jacobs was named a first-team All-Pro. Still, this didn’t secure him a long-term deal, and the league’s leading rusher was given the franchise tag instead of a contract extension — a franchise tag the Raiders running back has no intention of signing.
What do [lack of] Even more questionable long-term commitment to Jacobs is the superb consistency shown since his rookie year.
Contrary to popular belief, Josh Jacobs is as consistent as it gets
Nick Chubb is the only running back in the entire league who can claim to have been as consistent as the Raiders Pro Bowl running back. From 2019 onwards, starting with Jacobs’ inaugural season in the NFL, he and Chubb are the only two backs to record at least 20 broken tackles each season.
Of course, a runner can make potential tacklers miss entirely without breaking a tackle, which adds an element of elusiveness that isn’t present when focusing specifically on broken tackles. With their ‘forced missed tackles’ stats, Pro Football Focus also accounts for these cases. Again, Chubb and Jacobs are the only two running backs to collect at least 50 forced fumbles in each season, and neither has finished outside the top-five in any year since 2019.
Jacobs, Chubb, Aaron Jones and Tony Pollard are the only four running backs to earn a run grade of at least 79.0 every year in that time frame.
In just his rookie campaign, Jacobs earned the highest ‘avoidance assessment‘ by PFF among all backs with at least 90 carries, proving he’s been as good as it gets from the start of his career.
The question is, how has the two-time Pro Bowler not earned an extension with all this backing him?
Some fans point to his injury history, but Jacobs has never missed more than three contests in a season. In his most recent campaign, he played in every contest and collected the second-most rushing attempts in the entire league.
Others argue that he doesn’t offer much as a pass-catcher. While Raider Nation would like to see more in this area, Jacobs has improved on a yearly basis. Not only has his overall capacity through the air increased each season, but so have his first downs from receptions.
Franchise tag? No thanks, Raiders
Josh McDaniels has tested Jacobs at every turn since arriving in Las Vegas. Each time, the Tulsa native has gone above and beyond to answer the call — to the point where he forced his head coach to honor him as a team captain for the last half of the season through his play.
Yet Jacobs is still expected to play on a one-year franchise tag without the security of a long-term deal? Not a chance.
The first-team All-Pro has two words to say about the whole situation: Bad business.
— Josh Jacobs (@iAM_JoshJacobs) 20 June 2023
He’s not wrong either. What type of message does this send to free agents the Raiders are pursuing? Even if you happen to be the most productive player at your position, at only 25 years old, you still won’t get an extension with the team.
Can you name anyone who craves a lack of job security, especially if they are the best at what they do? I certainly can’t.
Jacobs loves being a part of the Silver and Black; after all, he has a tattoo of the logo on his arm. But everyone has a point where they simply have had enough. You can’t expect someone to have an ever-flowing wellspring of loyalty to something when that same something is constantly downright unreasonable.
Perhaps Jacobs’ well of loyalty to the Raiders has already dried up as it is. If not, he and Las Vegas have until Monday, July 17, to agree on an extension. If there is no agreement before 16 ET, Jacobs will not be able to sign a long-term deal until the end of the upcoming regular season.
*Top photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
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