Raiders RB Josh Jacobs is snubbed by the AP

The Raider Ramble staff gives their final thoughts on the Las Vegas Raiders, Josh Jacobs situation

Monday afternoon marked the deadline for players who received the franchise tag to reach a long-term agreement with their team. Fans had waited patiently to see if Josh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders would strike a deal, and finally, the day of decision came. Once 4p.m. ET came around, the deadline had officially passed, and Jacobs remained without an extension.

Instead of putting the pen to the paper, the first-team All-Pro sat in his car outside the Raiders’ facility with teammate Maxx Crosby; not what the 25-year-old had in mind.

With each topic Raider Nation discusses, there’s not much of a consensus agreement, and Jacobs’ contract situation is no exception. While many fans wanted the former first-round pick to ink a long-term deal, a seemingly-equal amount were satisfied with the final result. For the most part, people in the latter camp weren’t claiming Jacobs doesn’t deserve a sizable pay-day; instead, their argument had more to do with the replaceability of players at the running back position.

Here at The Raider Ramble, we each had our own thoughts on how the Jacobs’ situation played out.

Ramblers react to Josh Jacobs, Raiders failing to reach extension

Ray Aspuria (@AsukalAspuria)

Am I surprised the Las Vegas Raiders and running back Josh Jacobs didn’t work out a new contract? Nope.

Both Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels hail from an organization that didn’t necessarily pony up for running backs. And the duo hedged their bet of not giving Jacobs the fifth-year option by drafting Georgia tailback Zamir “Zeus” White in the fourth-round of the 2022 NFL Draft. In the seventh, UCLA’s Brittain Brown was selected.

I understand Jacobs’ quest to get paid. He had a spectacular career-season in 2022 and proved he’s worth the coin. Running backs need to cash in due to the short career life-expectancy that comes with the position. And Jacobs must be expecting compensation to reflect how valuable he is to the Raiders offense. Now, both team and player must wait until next offseason to re-explore a new contract. Either Jacobs signs the franchise tender, doesn’t and sits out, or Raiders pull the tag altogether. We shall see what happens.

Mario Tovar (@_MarioTovar)

I get both sides—it just isn’t smart to pay top-dollar money for an NFL RB anymore. Look at the situation with Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, etc. Plus, in Josh McDaniels’ case, his offensive system has consistently churned out effective backs within the constructs of said system.

Still, he’s never had a “Josh Jacobs,” not really. For JJ8, the man carried the Raiders last season. The stats speak for themselves at this point; he deserves to get paid. Per Jacobs himself, he wasn’t even looking to reset the running back market.

“Refusing to pay your best and most productive players”

Cam Archer (@CamArcher)

As much as it hurts to say, the Raiders are simply following a pattern that began with Khalil Mack: refusing to pay your best and most productive players. While one can understand the hesitance to pay a running back top dollar in 2023, Jacobs is key to the Silver and Black finding any real success in the upcoming season – especially after taking such a step down at quarterback.

Jimmy Garoppolo may be a “winner” to some, but those wins were with a top-tier defense and a great run game. The Raiders haven’t fielded a top defense in ages. Zamir White could be that guy, but it won’t be this season.

Dalton Blackman (@Blackman_Dalton)

From Jacobs’ point of view, he shouldn’t play on a one-year deal; at least not for the Raiders, who likely won’t be a contender. It’s not worth the injury risk, and would make more sense holding out for a trade.

For the Raiders, not striking a deal with Jacobs was a colossal mistake. What are they pinching pennies for? More than likely, they won’t be a contender in the next three years. You might as well reward Jacobs and buy some good will with the rest of the locker room. If the Raiders do become contenders in the next few years, it won’t be because Jimmy Garoppolo carried them. Instead, it will be because the defense made big strides, and controlling the ball with the run game; kind of like the Titans and 49ers a few years ago.

So again, why not invest in an elite running back? This whole saga sends a very clear message to the locker room: This regime does not value talent, and Ziegler/McDaniels believe they are the most important part of the organization, not the players.

“It is a dark day for the running back position”

Hunter Haas (@NFLDraftHaas)

This is a rare instance where both sides are justified in their reasoning.

For Jacobs, it’s hard to blame him for wanting to maximize his value – especially after the Raiders’ front office forced the All-Pro talent into playing without job security by declining his fifth-year option.

As for the Raiders, it’s hard to blame them for not wanting to break the bank for a running back entering the end of “prime years” for a ball carrier in the league. Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels are cut from the Patriot cloth, so paying Jacobs top-dollar was likely never in the cards.

It is a dark day for the running back position. Unfortunately for Jacobs, there is little incentive for him to give up $10.1 million in 2023. Only time will tell if the Raiders messed up, but from a roster-building standpoint, I understand the decision.

My own thoughts on the Josh Jacobs, Raiders situation

Alex Monfreda (@AlexMonfreda)

Pull up a chair and take a seat; explaining the many ways Las Vegas messed this one up is going to take a while.

Let’s start with who Josh Jacobs is, and what he’s done in this league.

Jacobs, a first-team All-Pro in 2022, is one-of-two running backs who have posted at least 20 broken tackles each season since 2019; the Alabama back’s rookie season. He is also one-of-two players to log at least 50 forced missed tackles each season, a stat by Pro Football Focus that totals each time a runner has made a would-be tackler miss.

In just his rookie campaign, Jacobs earned the highest elusiveness rating among all running backs. From the very start of his career, he’s showcased his elite ability to bypass defenders.

Nick Chubb aside, no running back has been in the same universe of consistency as the Raiders’ All-Pro. Raider Nation may be quick to point out Jacobs totaled a mere 872 rushing yards in 2021, but his 20 broken tackles (T6) and his 57 forced missed tackles (T3) while finishing outside of the top-10 in carries proves he created more opportunities for extra yards than virtually any other back. How can someone point their finger at Jacobs for this down-year in total rushing yards when he did everything in his power to create extra yardage?

“It’s just business.” Yeah; bad business

There are three separate parties who this situation directly affects – none in a positive way, either.

1. Potential incoming free agents

The entire league is monitoring this situation. In the eyes of an outside player looking in, Las Vegas has tried little to give a home-grown player a second contract who was the most productive at their position league-wide. Of course, Jacobs doing this while being all but 25 years old and still failing to earn that extension further magnifies the horror of this situation.

2. The Raiders’ already-discouraged locker room

Las Vegas was supposed to set the league on fire in 2022. With Davante Adams now in town, there was no way the team would move backwards from their 10-7 campaign the year prior. Well, when you manage to break the long-standing NFL record for most single-season losses in games where you had a double-digit lead at the half, you tend to take steps in the wrong direction. For the Raiders, this meant going from a postseason berth in ’21, to a 6-11 record in ’22.

Worse than that, the locker room watched as the team’s near-decade pillar of leadership, Derek Carr, was cut mid-February. In March, Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller was next to be escorted out of Las Vegas. Both of these players had signed contract extensions in the 2022 offseason, only to be tossed before their extensions kicked in. Trent Sieg was another player who was replaced, and, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, multiple players on the roster weren’t happy with his release. All three of these players were once team captains; now the locker room has to watch another team captain get replaced?

3. Josh Jacobs

How much more disrespect can Jacobs take before he’s done with Las Vegas altogether?

Josh Jacobs wants to reset the running back market? Well no, per himself, but even if the Raiders runner wanted to..

As explained in a tweet by Jacobs after the deadline, the 25-year-old was not looking to reset the market. Who cares if he was actually trying to, though? I mean, if Jacobs doesn’t deserve to be the highest-paid back in the NFL, who does?

Let’s pretend Jacobs did ask to be the highest-paid player at his position. That’s a lot of money to allocate towards one player, right? Not exactly.

Teams league-wide have $224.8 million cap room to work with in 2023; nearly a $20 million increase from 2022. Since Christian McCaffrey’s $16.05 million annual average puts him as the league’s most handsomely-paid runner, let’s make up a scenario where Jacobs earns $17 million yearly. Such a contract would allocate a mere 7.56% of the team’s total cap room to Josh Jacobs.

If Jacobs wasn’t looking to reset the market, just as he claims, that percentage would fall even lower. What the x2 Pro Bowler deserves to make isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme, nor is it a hindrance on team-building. When fans say it’s “too much money,” what they really mean is they don’t want to see a running back earn their dues.

If we’re talking about a non-transcending back, the argument to not pay a running back has genuine merit. If we’re talking about an elite runner who has a proven history of consistent play, and truly gives your team a legitimate edge, that player is worth a sizable pay-day, period.

None of this is the big reason why Raider Nation shouldn’t care if Jacobs cashes in on a big contract, though.

Highest-paid today, bargain tomorrow

As mentioned a little while ago, 2023 has a near-$20 million cap increase. Each year, this number gets bigger, giving franchises more wealth to spread. Even if Jacobs became the highest-paid player at his position, that number would gradually become less and less impressive as the years go by.

Let me show you what I mean.

Just four years ago, in 2019, a total of zero backs had a cap hit of at least $10 million. David Johnson’s $9.75 million led the pack, with only one additional player having a cap hit north of $9 million. One year later, two backs broke the $10 million threshold, with Johnson’s league-high cap hit reaching $11.15 million. In 2021, Derrick Henry’s $13.5 million cap hit topped Johnson’s with ease. Zeke held the biggest hit in 2023 with $18.2 million, and three backs each took up more than $11 million of their team’s total cap.

Things change quickly in a handful of years, and the battle of Jacobs’ contract vs. time would surely end no different. In year one, it’s the highest mark you’ll find at his position. by year four, it’s practically a bargain.

There’s more to say about the situation, but much of it is easier to convey with spoken words. For those interested, you can listen to what Phil Robinson III (@PhilRobinsonIII) and I had to say on the topic here: Unphiltered Truth.

*Top Photo: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Raiders’ second-year running backs ready to go if Josh Jacobs remains unsigned?

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