They challenged him to show it last season, and he did with flying silver and black colors, Josh Jacobs of the Raiders having won the NFL’s rushing title and cementing an All-Pro status.
The team needs to next make the most sensible move: franchise tag him.
It’s not the long-term deal that Jacobs desires.
It is the best move for the Raiders. At least for now.
All that and more
Jacobs didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up and answered such doubt from those making decisions by rushing for 1,653 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,053. He was all that and more.
One of the few bright spots in an otherwise failure of a 6-11 record.
Jacobs, 25, might be taking a wait-and-see approach — as he should — but the organization shouldn’t. It doesn’t mean a contract extension couldn’t later be finalized, but it does offer the team a window in which a deal might be made if the parties are far apart as negotiations move forward. No way to know that right now.
Jacobs wants to be in Las Vegas. Has said it time and again. He’s also a fan favorite, which should mean something to a management team now trying to convince the masses its process of rebuilding is the correct path to navigate.
The win-now mentality that defined moves before last season has apparently been replaced with a longer view of potentially constructing a winner over time. Not really what Jacobs wants to hear. Not what many players want to hear.
You can’t just let Jacobs walk in free agency for all sorts of reasons. Even if the Raiders have other plans at running back, and it’s difficult to imagine they do after what he accomplished last season, there is always the option of tagging and trading him.
I don’t believe that would happen. He means too much.
Say this for Jacobs: He understands better than most how far away the Raiders might be from contending. Which is why he has not so subtly suggested he might wait to agree to anything until the team shows a true effort to improve its roster.
Translation: It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t bet on himself and play on a one-year tag of just over $10 million. It’s just that he would want to do so knowing the Raiders have a legitimate chance to win games and make a push in the arduous AFC West.
Can’t blame him. Losing weighs on a guy.
He has said if the Raiders want him to return as a hero, they need to compensate him like one. The team doesn’t need a hero. It needs a competent defense. It needs a unit that can actually stop people. Rush the quarterback. Cover someone.
In the end, Jacobs wants to get paid. And as a 25-year-old running back who had nearly 400 touches last season, it’s easy to see why. He should seek a multiyear contract with more guaranteed money. It’s in his best interest to do so.
But tagging him is the smartest move for the other side. It could allow the Raiders another year to see if Jacobs’ production dips and by how much. You know. The position he plays. The predictable wear and tear.
Maybe it doesn’t occur at all. Maybe he’s just as good. Just as dependable.
“I mean, for me, I’ve got the Raiders seal tatted on me,” Jacobs told “Good Morning Football.” “It’s always something that I wanted to be a part of. I want to give back to win and change the culture to get the winning mentality and things like that. I’m fully invested in that.
“I mean, I just bought a house in Vegas. It’s definitely a place that I want to be.”
And the Raiders should want him.
They can begin by franchise tagging their star back and go from there.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at [email protected] He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.