JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Though Jaguars general manager David Caldwell never quite closed the door on Maurice Jones-Drew re-signing with the team and finishing his career in Jacksonville, it's now apparent that it was only open a crack.
Jones-Drew said at the end of the 2013 season that he wanted to finish his career in Jacksonville but that the decision would come down to money. He also said he had a number in mind but would not elaborate. The Jaguars were leaning toward a two-year contract, but Jones-Drew privately told people he wanted at least a three-year deal.
Caldwell had very little discussion with Jones-Drew's agent, Adisa Bakari, once the 2013 season ended and said the Jaguars never made a contract offer. He also said the two sides hadn't spoken since the Senior Bowl in late January. The Jaguars' signing of Toby Gerhart in the first few days of free agency is another sign that Jones-Drew wasn't a high priority for the Jaguars.
They would have gladly re-signed him under the right terms. The three-year deal Jones-Drew got from the Oakland Raiders on Friday was clearly out of the Jaguars' parameters of length of contract and what they were willing to spend.
So Jones-Drew's time in Jacksonville ends with him being the second-leading rusher in franchise history (8,071 yards) and the record-holder in touchdowns scored (81) and rushing touchdowns (68). He led the NFL in rushing in 2011 (1,606 yards) and made three Pro Bowls. His legacy, though, is more than that. He became the face of the franchise and the team's best player for the past five seasons.
But as much success as he had individually, Jones-Drew was not able to carry the Jaguars to the playoffs. Since Fred Taylor was cut after the 2008 season and Jones-Drew became the team's primary ball carrier, the Jaguars went 26-54 and never had a winning season.
His final season with the Jaguars was disappointing. Though he ran for 803 yards and five touchdowns, his average of 3.4 yards per carry was the worst of his career.
Still, Jones-Drew's time in Jacksonville will be remembered fondly, even with his protracted holdout in 2012 that lasted all of training camp and the preseason. When his career ends he should be the next player inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars.
Here are five memorable moments in Jones-Drew's career:
Colts killer: Jones-Drew ran for more yards (1,451) against Indianapolis than any other opponent. The first two 100-yard games of his career came against the Colts (103 and 166 yards in 2006). The second meeting with the Colts that year was a 44-17 victory and the Jaguars ran for 375 yards against the NFL's worst rush defense. Jones-Drew ran for 166 yards and Fred Taylor ran for 131.
Take a knee: Jones-Drew, acting on orders from coach Jack Del Rio, took a knee at the 1-yard line late in a 2009 game against the New York Jets. The touchdown would have put the Jaguars ahead 28-22 with 1:48 to play, but Del Rio was worried that left too much time for the Jets to answer. So he told Jones-Drew to get as close to the goal line as possible and take a knee. The Jaguars ran the clock down and Josh Scobee kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired to give the Jaguars a 24-22 victory. "Sorry to my fantasy owners," Jones-Drew said after the game. "They told me to get as close as I can and take a knee."
Atop the NFL: Jones-Drew led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards in 2011. When you consider what he had to overcome to do that, it's an even more impressive feat. Not only did he battle a knee issue throughout the season, he had to fight through eight-man fronts every week. The Jaguars had cut starting quarterback David Garrard just days before the season began and rookie Blaine Gabbert was forced into action before he was ready to play. Defenses ganged up to stop the run but still couldn't stop Jones-Drew, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Having fun: Jones-Drew clearly enjoyed himself on the football field, especially when he scored. He came up with creative celebrations, such as mimicking taking money out of an ATM after scoring against Kansas City in 2007 (which earned him a $7,500 fine) and imitating LeBron James' pre-game powder toss after a touchdown against Cleveland in 2011.
Blasted: Jones-Drew has earned the reputation as one of the league's best backs at picking up the blitz. It began during his rookie season when he destroyed former San Diego Chargers defensive end Shawne Merriman. The 5-foot-7, 210-pound Jones-Drew pancaked the 6-foot-5, 272-pound Merriman on a play near the goal line during the Jaguars' 24-17 victory in 2007. Jones-Drew's block allowed Garrard to complete an easy touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis.