Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jones? Am I missing something?

I'm trying to figure out exactly what gives here. It seems that the local media is more obsessed in covering ex-Lions players than they are the current ones. Funny that just a couple of months after Tom Kowalski, and others, applauded the move to cut Kevin Jones -- they are now bemoaning the fact that they cut him, and practically worshiping him -- despite a video in which he (barely) manages to outrun a former Olinemen and a running back who if Out-Of-Football!

Also, if you look at Nicky's comments in the Freep, he implies he was there and that if we were there, we'd have been impressed too! Umm...he wasn't there. He watched the same video. I'll let you judge for yourself, but watching that video and knowing what I do about Football led me to believe the Lions made the right choice -- not a bad one.

Lets take a moment, and push aside all negativity, all positivity, and all emotion and take a good last look at this situation -- what the facts and odds were, and what the Lions stood to gain and lose from both keeping him or cutting him not just this season, but in 2009 and beyond as well.

First of all, unless someone else signs Jones to a 3.281 million dollar contract (guaranteed base salary plus bonus) this season and he plays as a number one back from game one through 16 -- then it was a good move on the Lions' part. That was their cost to keep him, and even if he gave them that I think they reasoned they could (and I'm betting will) get that kind of prodcution without Jones and with an eye toward continued success beyond 2008. I'll lay out my argument here, and see if you agree.

The first situation is Jone's injuries. No matter how he always seems to make light of them, or pretend he can come back 100% in half the time it takes the average player -- he has been hampered by injuries both minor and major since he entered the league. Even his rookie season, by far his best year, he missed time due to injury. The knee injury last season was an indirect result of his foot injury, no matter what Jones' or the Lions' spin doctors say.

I have, as we all do when we get older, various aches from old injuries (football, car wreck, being a stupid young daredevil for a while). When my leg hurts, I tend to put more weight on my other leg -- which means I also but more pressure on my hip in the small of my back, which makes my back hurt. Because my lower back hurts, I sit and walk differently to try to make it feel better, which places more pressure on my legs and makes my knee hurt...then as I sit differently my shoulder on the opposite side hurts. Now, I'm not anywhere close to incapacitated by any means -- they are just annoying aches. But you can see the pattern -- now project that onto a major foot injury... Jones admittedly had so much pain he couldn't walk til Wednesday, and didn't practice at all. Now, how many offenses can function when their number one back only plays or practices on game day in extreme pain.

He ran differently by favoring the foot, and trying to change his style to minimize the impact of his foot not being 100%. It's not all Jones' fault, as the Lions have a history of rushing players back from knee injuries (for example, Brian Calhoun who re-injured the same knee, and Charlie Batch who couldn't plant to throw but was under center - and injured his knee coming back form a broken leg.)

If you look around the NFL the trend is there -- players who attempt to come back too early from injury get re-injured, or suffer an indirect injury. If he doesn't come back early, he still is not 100% for camp, not 100% fr the season. Keep in mind, he has NEVER played a full season in his first 4 years in the league.

Next we get to the business decisions. Kevin Jones is only 25, about to be 26. But he is entering his 5th year in the league. He has had two major and a half dozen minor to moderate injuries. He was also in the last year of his contract, and counting 3.281 million against the cap. (as per his 2008 base salary and Signing bonus allocation per NetRat's cap spreadsheet). How much juice did he have left? It was not only a matter of salary, but a matter of future salary and roster space.

First, roster space. Is there the opportunity to fill the roster spot vacated by him with a player who would contribute at least as much, possibly in more ways, for at least the same cap number or less? I think we can agree that answer is yes. Is there any doubt that Kevin Smith will in all probability be able to play more than 13 games per season and get more than 600 yards as the #1 back? Granted the Lions didn't have Kevin Smith when they cut Jones, but they knew who was available in the draft -- and that was about a dozen backs who would be safe bets to replace the production Jones had shown over the last 3 seasons -- and at least a dozen more who would have been gambles, but relatively safe ones. The Lions needed more back-ups to have more positive contributions on special teams. But if you have KJ and a drafted back (Smith) as your #1 and #2 have 2 of 4 active RB each week who are only playing offense.

Michael Turner, Tomlinson's backup, also played on the special teams coverage and return units. With the 53 man roster, and further limited number of game-day players, every position is important and everyone beyond your immediate starters needs to be able to contribute on special teams, or in multiple ways.

The next point is about not just the current cap savings of 2.54 million, but what about his 2009 pay? Killer got it right the first time around, and now he's back pedaling. The Lions never said Jones was washed up. They didn't say he couldn't be a productive back in the NFL. They didn't even say he couldn't fully recover and be a great back in 2009. What they did say is that he wouldn't be likely to win a starting job back until the 2nd half of the season, if at all.

These are the scenarios I picture the Lions considering at that time:

1. Jones makes it into camp, is able to participate some, and then is ready to start the season full tilt by say, game 3. then he makes it through the whole season and gets over 1,000 yards. Now what? Do you pay him a megabucks contract? That hasn't worked so well for the last few teams that have done so (think S. Alexander, Thomas Jones with NYJ, Dominic Rhodes, Edgerrin James). Marinelli has been more like the Colts or Patriots in player signing strategy lately than the Cardinals or Redskins (which is a good thing). So even if he does come back, odds on are the Lions were still going to have to draft a replacement for him, just to be sure (unless you think Tatum Bell is long-term insurance vs. one year "just in case") -- do you pay Jones big money, or let the new guy get in there and compete?

2. More likely, Jones come in and contributes the second half of the season. If Smith, for instance, had locked up the starting role, then what of Jones? He'd at that point be a very expensive third down back, unlikely to be resigned for the reasons above.

3. Jones doesn't recover to his rookie form, performs average and is not resigned at the end of the season, as some other team will out-bid them hoping another year will get him back to his Rookie form.

In all the scenarios the Lions were essentially in a situation where Jones was in a 1 year contract, and they could pay him -- or his replacement and a couple of badly needed solid free-agents.

Considering the upside and the downside for the Lions, it really made sense both in terms of potential contribution to the roster, current salary cap, and spending in the future.

Also, for those who point to signing Tatum Bell to "replace" Jones, they signed him to compete and be sure they had at least one healthy back going into the draft to give them options.

As we have seen and been talking about, the RB position is strong with great competition from talented players who are all pushing each other to try for a roster spot. How would Jones have fir into that competition? Cap wise, it is the same argument we are using for Bell possibly being cut. I checked, and cutting him would save 1.1 million to the cap. KJ -- had they brought him to camp -- would have been a 2.48 million savings. Based on likelihood to contribute, I find it hard to believe that with all the factors in play, KJ would have ended up on the final 53 barring a miracle. I think the Lions saw that too, and let him go early to help give them the latitude to sign needed veterans like B. Kelly, D. Smith, and C. Darby.

Whether or not Jones succeeds elsewhere in the League is not really relevant. For the Lions, based on the current situation, the costs of keeping Jones did not outweigh the benefits both for this season, and beyond -- even in the best case scenarios. It happens all the time around the league -- Drew Brees anyone? -- Jamall Lewis? -- Cory Dillon? -- Ahman Green? (to the Pack, not Houston) -- and plenty more. What really needs to be looked at is: what are the costs and relevant benefits - opportunity cost in economic terms. And for Jones, the opportunity cost of keeping him was higher than the benefits to be gained by releasing him. I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to bring him back at the veteran minimum to compete in camp -- which I can guarantee is what New England and Tennessee were offering. Right now his agent is doing what agents do -- trying to get someone else to bid on his client, to get KJ something above Vet minimum. Not so sure that he'll get anyone to bite.

Honestly, and you can refer to this later, I don't care if he does go to Tennessee and plays us later in the season. Just as motivated as he will be to come back, the current backs will be motivated to show they are better than Jones, and the D will be motivated to kick his butt since he has now already implied that he'd run all over them given the chance. Not a real complimentary statement about the Lions D (true though it was last season) -- and one it seems guys would take offense at, should it come to that. Personally, I think a team like Arizona or Houston, in need of an additional back, will take a shot on him hoping he does come on by the second half of the season and will be able to contribute. But only, as Bob Barker liked to say, if the Price is Right...

That is my final take, and final word on Jones.


Anonymous said...

You've covered the tangibles.

Allow me to try to cover the intangibles, which may outweigh the tangibles?


What would motivate KJ to say 'Colletto' during this workout that was purposefully filmed to be used during try outs for other teams, maybe at the request of KJ's agent. The tape shows where KJ's recovery was on 5/29 - the interviewing coaching staffs will be able to compare it to KJs try out and see whether or not any or how much progress has being made, and how much further progress can be expected to be made.

I remember a game, a couple, maybe 3 years ago against the Bears. Opening drive, the Bears scored a TD, the Lions scored a TD on their first drive also. Next Bears possession they scored another TD. Next Lions possession the Lions were driving ..... then a pass was called - Roy went one way, the ball went another and was intercepted. The Bears went on to win the game by halftime. But I distinctly remember KJ getting in Roy's face on the sideline after the interception, and I think something similar happened between KJ and coach Colletto in/during/after the Cards game last year.

Months after the Cards game, Killer reported that coach Colletto got into a shouting match with coach Martz in/during/after that game because Martz was calling 80+% passing plays and the game gameplan was to have a balanced attack.

Something major happened during that Cards game to the Lions, upsetting the entire team chemistry and resulting in the Lions going 1 - 7 the rest of the year. And I suspect KJ played a major role in that major something that happened, resulting in his release.

And you are right. A rebuilt Lisfranc and a rebuilt knee, regardless if they are on the same leg or not, will result in a different running style, which will, especially with KJs running style open up the possibilities of additional injuries.

Go Lions

Anonymous said...

You guys hit the nail on the head. I have no idea what Killer was thinking when he pushed out this idea.

Let me qualify this by saying that I love KJ and I'm still rooting for him in the long run, but honestly, does anyone really believe that his injuries are behind him? IF anyone signs him it will be at the minimum salary level with a ton of production based incentives laced into the contract. I wouldn't have minded seeing the Lions release and resign him to a contract similar to this, but I agree with 5BS that there was a major catastrophe that KJ had some role in.

Another problem with KJ is that his days of being a running back in a single-back system are over. At this point I don't think he'll ever make it past option #2. I think he can probably do a solid job in this role but he's never going to be that outstanding even if he puts his injuries behind him (which he won't).

Constant injuries + Position with a short life span = Not much of a career left for Kevin Jones

...sad but true.


Anonymous said...


You're exactly right.
KILLER - flip flopping (I called him out in the mlive chat room.)


Batch I don't remember. Calhoun-it was his fault. KJ - It was his fault. JEFF GARCIA - It was his fault. Do the Lions have the ultimate say? Yeah, I guess they do; however, when you got a guy that's saying "I'm back, I'm gold". And you know his 80% is better than any of your bench's 100% it's tempting.

KEVIN JONES INJURY (bombshell) I disagree. To say the lisfranc injury changes Kevin Jones's gait-absolutely, yes. To say it caused the knee injury, no way. To say it weakened the knee, no way. If they were weeks apart, sure I can go with that. But the body definately had time to adapt to his new running gait. I know the foot is the foundation of everything, and you are right to use the example of over-correcting posture issues in your own body. But those are things that happen over a period of time in a slow manner.

Kevin Jones' knee injury was a violent snap because of his foot staying planted when he cut.

With that said, I agree with everything else. Jones can say everything he wants. Jones usually is incredibly positive and does back up the talk. He has two major injuries to his wheels now. The scare tactic alone, disavows him as a #1 back.

Minus Fred Taylor, I don't (or can't) know any back that has come back from multiple injuries to be a stud-again Pro Bowler.

The Brian Calhoun comparison that some are tossing out there is unfair as well. Calhoun blew the same knee. One injury (take 2). It just wasn't healed...that's different.

Any way you slice it at end of the day, he's not a Lion, nor should he be.

Bake; very good summation about the Phoenix Folly. I would bet you are spot on with that.

I remember hearing years ago the Bobby Ross debacle came as Herman Moore did an Elmer Fudd impression of Ross; the locker room supposedly divided after that and Ross quit in the middle of the season a week or two later.

There are a lot of issues surrounding Martz and all that he brings. I am glad he's gone. Mark my words, he will try taking over the 49ers from under Mike Nolan.

Our offensive line is better without him. Our defense is better now without him. Our running game is better now without him.

I think Kevin Jones is, too. Martz's offense didn't help his running style at all. Jones will be back as a spell guy and a second back in someone's offense. I bet he goes to Tampa.


Patrick said...

You know...I am a KJ fan as well. As for his injuries...too many to be comfortable with to keep. But with that said...a team like NE will get him...and he will have a really nice career rotating with Mulroney and Faulk. I wish him the best...but it is about the Backs in Detroit. I wish Killer would stick to our team and what we are doing. If I want to know what the former players are doing...I will look them up.

CHIEFGER139 said...

remember the dat they cut kj
KILLER was posting all these articles how jones was rehabing and doing good and he's in his prime now and hes finally going to pay off for the lions-even did a audio on him-later that day they cut him. I think that hurt toms credibility as an inside guy and he hopes jones does do well after what happened-still glad they covered the story-jones was our guy for a lot of years and nice to know what hes up to.
colleto did the right thing cutting him-if jones was so good he'd be on another team already-hes not and the only way he'd make it through an entire season with the lines offensiveline is on the bench
im glad coach rod has the guts to make the tough decisions and cut someone lose when its time to do so.

ClusterFox said...

Great Analysis Guys! I too was a big KJ fan. I must say I'm a bit dissappointed in some of the comments he's making. Definately agree he was a part of a big behind the scenes problem. We really went out on a limb last off season trusting he would come back.(He should know that) How many "professionals" do you know that would berate the former team before they have even found someone that is willing to employ them. He has zero grounds to say anything. He's working out in some guys basement with a couple of guys trying to get back onto a roster. Long story Short, I think I looked over the fact that this guy must not be very intelligent. His agent should tell him to shut up, and his chance to show us up will come when and If some one else gives him the chance that we gave him last year. Your welcome Kevin.

Someone once told me that the definition of insane is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. It took me this long and a couple of KJ comments to fully appreciate the fact that he is gone. Now what to do with this BLACK KJ jersey. talk about a double negative.

CHIEFGER139 said...

check the video out it tells you what to do with your old k.jones jersey
copy and paste it

JJLions20 said...

Some people don't understand ACL injuries to runningbacks. The ACL can be healed in 6 months, but the mind takes more than a year to heal. KJ tore his ACL in December, that means he will not be back to normal until 2009. Probably on IR for the first 6 weeks. The mental part is not to be thinking about the knee when you cut hard. Running on a straight dive play is not an issue, but convincing your mind to plant and cut instinctively is what is difficult.

The Lions will be running a zone blocking scheme which means looking for the seam and cutback lane, planting the foot and cutting quickly. That is not a good formula for a player coming off of an ACL injury.

Add to all of this a Lisfranc injury that is still an unknown as to how healthy the foot is. Now you have a lot of down side and very little upside.

In my opinion Jones would have been mediocre at best in 2008. Then he would have wanted a big contract that Detroit would have been unlikely to give him.

So the lions were staring at only getting a little out of him in 2008 and nothing in 2009. So why not get a fresh start 1 year early.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I have always liked Jones' attitude and toughness while he was a Lion and wish him the best of luck in his future but this whole story is just another negative spin on the Lions by the media. Killer's article and comments on Stoney's show are only done so that if (big if) Jones does comes back he can then say "I told you so". The Lions made a good business decision to cut Jones and I agree they would have kept him at a much cheaper price. Cutting him allowed them to sign players in greater need areas. The Lions planned on drafting a decent RB in the draft and also hoped that bringing back Bell would work. The Lions now have competition at RB (as well as other positions) which will make them better. If they had kept Jones, He would almost certainly be guaranteed a spot on the team. Killers' comments irk me because he justifies them by saying K. Smith is an unknown. Is it not also unknown whether Jones can be productive and not get hurt again? Isn't it also possible for the other RBs to be as productive as Jones has been but at a less cost? Isn't it obvious that the Lions need as much cap space as they could get thi year and do not want to be forced to resign Jones to a big contract if he had a good year while also needing to resign Roy to his big contract next year?
Killer also flip about Martz and his playbook. When other players had difficulties learning the playbook (Roy in particular) He basically called them quitters but when Jones has problems it is because Martz playbook is too hard. As I write this another thought just occur. It was Killer who started the whole mess that Roy wants to leave and at the time that the Lions would be hard pressed to sign both Roy and Jones. Well it looks the Lions made their decision and Killer is still not happy about it. I have lost a lot a respect for Killer after all this. He should stick to writing the "news" about the Lions. Detfan should give him a tutorial on what a "blog" really is suppose to be instead of just rehashing old crap about former players or giving lame scouting reports that do not give anything new.