Josh Jacobs Raiders running back

The Franchise Tag, the Noble Fight, and the Middle Ground Between Two Sides: Josh Jacobs and the Raiders

Josh Jacobs remains unsigned, and the opening week of the 2023 NFL regular season is right around the corner. That’s not good – for either party. On Jacobs’ side, he doesn’t get paid if he doesn’t play. His fight for equality among running backs is certainly admirable, but it can become a pricy battle quite quickly. For the Las Vegas Raiders, they remain without their first-team All-Pro running back. Something has to change.

There’s a variety of ways change can happen where both parties, Jacobs and the Raiders, walk away gaining something. A trade, for example, will give the 25-year-old a fresh start elsewhere while Las Vegas gains assets for the running back. Rescinding the franchise tag placed upon Jacobs would let him sign wherever he wishes, and the Raiders would free up the $10 million allocated to their runner through the tag. A player doesn’t need to sign their tag for it to count against the team’s salary cap.

Of course, those options both come with a clear negative. In the trade scenario, you’re giving up an All-Pro to start a second-year back who’s logged 17 career rushes. If Las Vegas rescinds Jacobs’ tag, rival teams are able to scoop the NFL’s leading rusher in 2022 without giving up assets.

All-in-all, the chances either will happen are slim-to-none, with slim having one foot out the door already. As is, the Miami Dolphins have already called about Josh Jacobs, and were greeted with a firm “not happening.”

That leaves us with two options: Jacobs and the Raiders work out a separate one-year deal to replace the tag just as Saquon Barkley did, or the Alabama alum remains unsigned. Sure, he can sign his franchise tag too, but Dave Ziegler is willing to pay more than the tag offers.

Josh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders: What’s next?

Realistically, Jacobs either suits up for Las Vegas in 2023 or doesn’t play for anyone on account of a contract dispute. If no games are being played, no game checks are coming in. That’s not ideal, to say the least. However, the former first-round draft pick isn’t focused on a record-breaking pay-day. Per himself, he’s after job security.

The problem is, the deadline for franchise tagged players to reach long-term deals with their club has come and gone. At this point in time, Jacobs and the Raiders can only reach an agreement on a one-year deal. The focus might be on job security, but a multi-year contract can’t be presented until the end of the 2023 regular season in any case.

And make no mistake, both parties want a long-term partnership. General manager Dave Ziegler has been quite vocal when it comes to his feelings on Jacobs. When the Raiders kicked off their preseason campaign against San Francisco at Allegiant Stadium, Ziegler let a fan know he has no problem giving Jacobs $12 million annually. Those are just words, though, and as we know, actions speak louder than words. Ziegler proved his words of admiration for Jacobs were genuine by refusing to advance in trade talks upon Miami’s inquiry.

How much does Jacobs want to be a Raider? On the hour of the deadline to reach a multi-year deal, he and teammate Maxx Crosby waited in his car outside the team’s facility with aspirations of striking a deal. That was back in mid-July. Fast forward one month later, and Jacobs remains quite involved with his teammates from afar.

Jacobs’ teammates continue fighting for his return

Davante Adams is one of the biggest figureheads in the Raiders locker room. He’s also been one of the biggest figureheads in the fight to get Jacobs back into a silver and black jersey.

In late-July, Adams appeared on the Dan Patrick Show to talk about his unsigned teammate. At the time, the veteran wideout noted he had spoken to Jacobs three or four days prior. Adams, who hasn’t been shy about wanting Jacobs back in practice, let his teammate know he respects him fighting for his worth.

At the same time, Adams reminded Jacobs of their potential together. Two great players tend to feed off each other, both simultaneously taking their greatness to the next level. Adams calls this “The Aaron Rodgers effect.” “I also let him know that I played with a great deal of running backs – really good running backs – and there’s only a handful I feel like I could go to literal war with. He’s one of those guys,” the All-Pro receiver added.

In early-August, Adams minced no words when touching on the absence of Jacobs.

“Not having him right now is obviously something that I’m not happy with,” Adams mentioned. “He played like the best back in the league last year, which if you ask me, he is the best back in the league.”

I know, I know; what is he supposed to say? That’s always the rebuttal.

This isn’t the cookie cutter answer some fans want others to believe it is. Adams could’ve said, “We want Jacobs here, but it’s ‘next man up’ mentality,” or something to that effect. A statement that stands up for his teammate while acknowledging life moves on. That didn’t happen. Instead, Adams followed up on his words by confirming the struggles of not having Jacobs in action, concluding with, “hopefully we can figure something out.”

The love of the game

The relationship between Josh Jacobs and his teammates isn’t a one-way street. While his teammates check in on him, Jacobs continues to make sure his Raider brothers are doing well themselves.

On Wednesday, Zamir White – the Raiders’ likely RB1 should Jacobs remain unsigned – let it be known his position-mate texted him after Tuesday’s practice to see how he was doing.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Las Vegas’ All-Pro running back is checking in on his guys. These men aren’t just teammates, but brothers who go to war together every game day. As White notes, the bond between these two was “real close” last year. “Just hanging out; here.. home..”

It’s business as usual for Jacobs, even if he isn’t practicing with the Raiders. He’s still doing both his offseason and preseason workouts, staying in peak football shape, and making sure he stays in contact with his teammates.

There’s another layer seldom touched on in this – the love of the game.

Forget about the $10 million that goes down the drain if Jacobs fails to appear in a contest this upcoming season. Let’s talk about human emotions instead. Jacobs has plenty of love for both the Raiders and the other 52 players he battles with on game day. More than that, the fifth-year running back has tremendous love for the game of football.

Sure, most players have love for the game, but Jacobs oozes passion for the sport that has our hearts. There’s a personal connection here, one deeper than most – myself included – can understand. Growing up, the Tulsa native grew accustomed to living out of a car. “I normalized a lot of things growing up – like I never thought, damn, I’m sleeping in a car,” he told ESPN in a 2018 interview.

We all have passions, and oftentimes feed those passions to put our problems on the back-burner. That was football to Josh Jacobs. Are we to believe Jacobs will essentially pass on more than $10 million to not take part in the game he loves? His fight is admirable, but that doesn’t make much sense.

Teams are all-in on running backs having major value, yet all-in on not paying up

Let’s be clear: What the league is doing to running backs is simply unfair. Teams in no way, shape or form devalue the position. This year alone, two running backs were selected in the top-12 of the draft. Multiple running backs received the franchise tag, which could’ve been used on any player at any position. Of the two running backs who didn’t sign their tag, Jonathan Taylor and Josh Jacobs, the value is still intact. The Raiders are refusing to trade Jacobs, and the Colts are asking for a first-round pick in a trade for Taylor.

Teams league-wide clearly place much value on the position.

However, general managers are refusing to pay up because the injury risk is greater than that of most positions. Taylor, for example, suffered a season-ending injury at the end of the year. But how is this fair for a player like Josh Jacobs, among others, who has never missed more than three games in a season? Nick Chubb has finished back-to-back seasons top-three in rushing yards and has never missed more than four contests in a year, yet Chubb himself is outside the top-three in annual payment at the position.

Jacobs is right to stand for all running backs. Unfortunately, no matter how right he may or may not be, there’s not much he can do about it. Chubb himself echoed that harsh truth, stating, “Right now, there’s really nothing we can do.”

The two sides still have to iron out a deal, but all roads lead to a return for the Raiders runner

Neither side has given up any ground in their stance yet, but both parties want the same thing. Ziegler wants his two-time Pro Bowl RB back in action. One team called him asking of Jacobs’ availability, and the conversation ended just as quick as it began. He’s told fans he plans on getting this thing done.

Jacobs loves being a Raider. He has a tattoo of the shield on his arm, after all. If he had any intentions of leaving, he would formally ask for a trade. Both Jonathan Taylor and Budda Baker have done just that this summer, but Jacobs hasn’t. His teammates love him. He loves his teammates. He loves football. However, he doesn’t love being undervalued. Who does?

The two sides still have to iron out a deal, but all roads lead to a return in 2023 for the NFL’s 12th-best player, per this year’s NFL Top 100 list.

As for Jacobs, he’s kept quiet about this situation – publicly, at least. You can’t blame him, either. Raider Nation understandably wants information, but this matter of business is solely between the 25-year-old and Dave Ziegler.

Ziegler did provide an update, however.. sort of. On Thursday, he noted there was nothing new on that front. “There is nothing new to add on that. We’ll just keep pushing forward,” the general manager said in response to a question asking for an update.

While I do believe all signs point towards Josh Jacobs re-joining the team in the near future, I want to be clear in saying I have no intentions of speaking for the winner of the first Jim Brown Award. Perhaps he’s already sold on sitting for the entire season; only Jacobs himself knows that. That said, I just can’t see things playing out that way. It doesn’t make much sense.

Time is running out, and a decision will be made soon.

*Top Photo: NBC Sports/Daniel Shirey

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