The Issue with Jacoby Jones
At the beginning of the 2011 season, Jacoby Jones was given a 3-year $10.5 million dollar contract with $3 million in guarantees and was considered a key free agent coming out of the 2010 season. To call the move questionable is an understatment, but the production has been non-existent in his five years with the Texans. As a Texan, he has had 127 catches for 1,741 yards and 11 touchdowns (5 seasons) , with 51 receptions and 562 yards in 2010 being his best statistical output as a professional. The unfortunate thing is that the “one blunder” that Texans fans will always remember happened in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Ravens is what he will be known for. We won’t rehash the play, but it is not a popular topic among the Texans fan base. Add that “blunder” to the lack of production since coming to Houston, it has plenty of Texans fans asking the question when is Jones going to be a cap casualty.
We asked the question at the beginning of the season, when was he going to step his game up and be the player the Texans’ organization thinks he should be, but like them we are all still waiting. He could have been the cap casualty instead of Eric Winston whose release was a shock to the football landscape, at least in Houston. Now with the cap issues Texans fans are calling and waiting for Jones to be released before the season starts, but it seems like this will not happen to the dismay of Texans fans. There might be some logical reasons for keeping him around, but trust me we wouldn’t be opposed if he was let go by the Texans.
When the Texans let go of Eric Winston (now with Kansas City) and Mike Brisiel (signed with Oakland), they were able to leave because of the guys behind them, Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler, who both have starter experience. Both Caldwell and Butler seemed to be enough of a security blanket for the team to be ok with their right side of the line to walk. As for Jones’ dilemma, it seems that him remaining on the team has to do with the lack of wide receivers behind him in the rotation. What looked like a solid wide receiver rotation for the Texans heading into the 2011 season, it proved to be the weakest spot for the Texans during the season.
Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter will be the starters for the Texans heading into the 2012 season once again, but after that there is a big drop off in talent after those two. With the talent that is currently under contract for the Texans, Jones is the third best option right now. If the Texans cut him loose, then the Texans will only have two players with any experience at the position, and Head Coach Gary Kubiak is not a big fan of depending exclusively on young players in big situations. Kubiak likes developing players in his system and the receiver position is no different.
The Texans released Dorin Dickerson prior to the 2011 season, and Dickerson was supposed to be depended on for years to come. Dickerson was inconsistent and never made the transition from being a tightend in college to a wide receiver in the NFL. Also, Derrick Mason proved to be a non factor after the Texans traded for him, Bryant Johnson was just filling a jersey, and David Anderson couldn’t hold his roster spot for his second go round with the team. Jeff Maehl made the active roster as a rookie but proved to be a special teams guy and never got any real snaps on offense, so he is unproven. Fans got a snap shot of Lestar Jean during preseason, and he turned some heads and looked like he had a shot to make the team coming out of training camp, but he ended up on the injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury. Juaquin Iglesias is also under contract for the 2012 season, but he was on the practice squad for the entire season.
If the Texans cut loose Jones, you would be depending on unproven players like Jean, Maehl and Iglesias going into camp. Jones understands the offense and can play either receiver spot, so his value lies in the fact there is “NO ONE” threatening his spot on the team. General Manager Rick Smith has made it clear they want to upgrade the wide receiver position, but with cap issues it looks like the Texans will have to look at the NFL draft to bring in competition. Jones did improve on the blocking part of his game and made some huge blocks in the run game that made for some big runs for Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Kubiak loves physical receivers who can block, so Jones is keeping Kubiak satisfied in that part of the game. Also, he holds value, when not muffing punts, in the punt return game and has proven he has some skills when he gets North and South with the football.
The Texans might be able to bring a free agent wide receiver in at a bargain basement price, but until then it is probably safe to say that Jacoby Jones will not be going anywhere for the time being. Now when camp rolls around he might have to fight for his spot on the roster, but there is no one on the roster that can take his place now. Jones staying on the team has nothing to do with his production, it has to do with a numbers game, and right now he is the third best option at the wide receiver group. It is a harsh reality for fans to grasp and the Texans could save some cap room if he was cut, but he looks like he will be here to stay.