I was fine with letting Thomas Jones go. In fact, I probably would have let him go. It's not that hard to find quality young backs. It gave the Jets a chance to get younger and cheaper at the position. What I don't get is letting a locker room leader like Jones go for a guy almost as old, who will cost almost as much, and isn't half as productive.
LaDainian Tomlison is not a productive football player anymore. He ran for an abysmal 3.3 yard average per carry in 2009. You could argue his offensive line wasn't that great, but how then did his teammate Darren Sproles run for a significantly better 3.7 average? Thomas Jones ran for a 3.6 average with Adrien Clarke and Anthony Clement on his offensive line in 2007. TJ didn't have an elite passing attack to keep defenses honest like Tomlinson did either. Willie Parker, a player we discussed yesterday, had 3.8 and 4.0 averages over the past two seasons with a terrible blocking front.
Let's go a little deeper. Rich Cimini takes a lot of heat here, but he did a great job yesterday in an article looking in depth at how productive Tomlinson is.
MISCELLANEOUS RUSHING STATS (ACCORDING TO PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS)
Yards After Contact/Per Attempt -- 1.9 (Ranks 29th out of 29 RBs who appeared in at least 50% of team's offensive snaps)
Missed Tackles Caused -- 9 (Ranks 29th out of 29 RBs who appeared in at least 50%)
In other words, he's a back incapable of breaking tackles or making anybody miss. If he hits a wide open hole, sure he can pick up some yardage, but these stats show he doesn't have explosion to turn them into big runs like say a Willie Parker could.
I've heard some chatter he could turn into a third down back. As bad as having Tomlinson replacing Thomas Jones would be, having him take over this role for Leon Washington would be even worse in my book. Yes, he has a reputation of being a good pass catcher, but he set a career low of 20 receptions in 2009. It was the first year he had less than 51. That's a huge dropoff.
There are some positions where players age gracefully. Take wide receiver. Torry Holt has lost a lot of explosion, but he runs good enough routes and has good enough hands to help somebody in some capacity. Running back is different. When it goes, it goes quickly and never comes back. When a back whose entire game is based on athletic ability like Tomlinson loses that ability, it never comes back, and he ceases to be effective.
The other problem is we don't know how he will react to not being the guy. He's used to being the franchise player. It's easy to say you'll accept a reduced role in the offseason. How will he respond once he's sitting on the bench? Will he be happy? Will it affect his preparation.
He's a classy guy, but that's not enough to give a guy a contract. He'll likely be a Hall of Famer, but a team should pay for what it expects in the future, not for what a player has done in the past. That was part of the reason Thomas Jones was released. Why give a guy a contract for being the 2006 MVP if he can't produce in 2010? If he had more pedestrian stats and was not a superstar five years ago, would any team even sniff him? Doesn't anybody remember how ineffective he was in the Divisional Playoffs?
I want a productive player at the position. I would have been fine with a rookie the team could have developed for peanuts. I would have been fine with a guy like Willie Parker, capable of adding another dimension for cheap. I would have been fine with a guy like Brian Westbrook who might bring more to the table than Jones. What I can't live with is cutting a productive player and a locker room leader like Thomas Jones and paying about the same amount to a totally ineffective player.
This team makes a lot of moves with which I disagree. Take the Kerry Rhodes trade. I can at least understand the thought process there, though. Rhodes' attitude clearly didn't mix with the coaching staff. I don't love Antonio Cromartie, but if San Diego is going to offer a guy with his incredible natural ability for 40 cents on the dollar, you have to take it. This would make absolutely no sense to me, and I don't see how the team justifies it. Just because he was great in 2005 doesn't mean LT has a lot to offer today.