Will the Raiders Re-Sign Josh Jacobs? Why Jacobs’ Contract Fits Raiders’ Timeline

Will the Raiders Re-Sign Josh Jacobs? Why Jacobs’ Contract Fits Raiders’ Timeline

The 2023 NFL offseason is set to bring massive changes across the league. The last two offseasons saw an unprecedented number of trades involving star players and quarterbacks take place. With three of the NFL’s leading rushers slated to hit the free agent market, we’re sure to see more big contracts.

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is atop the list of playmakers to be available. Let’s break down why the Raiders could re-sign Jacobs and what his contract could look like.

Why Re-Signing Josh Jacobs Makes Sense for the Raiders

After the Raiders hired former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as head coach, the team quickly invested in their backfield. McDaniels famously used a rotation of backs for specific roles in New England, frustrating fantasy managers for years. It made sense to think he’d continue to do the same after adding rookies Zamir White and Brittain Brown and veterans Brandon Bolden and Ameer Abdullah behind Jacobs.

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The writing on Jacobs’ career outlook with the Raiders seemed clear as they declined his fifth-year option. If the season went as expected, White would transition into a larger role as the season progressed. But that never happened.

Instead of taking advantage of their depth, Jacobs earned over 90% of the team’s carries and led the NFL in rushing at the time of writing. The 24-year-old has been phenomenal with McDaniels, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and more than 15 yards a game more than the NFL’s No. 2 rusher, Derrick Henry. He chipped in 346 receiving yards, third on the Raiders.

This type of production can’t be ignored and must affect how the Raiders attack this offseason. The offense failed to launch after injuries to Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow limited the duo to 37 receptions across 11 combined games. With the Raiders already all-in on Waller, Renfrow, and Davante Adams, paying Jacobs is defensible.

The first big decision Las Vegas must make is on quarterback Derek Carr. If the Raiders were to explore trading him, they’d open almost $30 million in cap space and likely get a first-round draft pick in return. With their own first founder landing in the top 10, they could quickly pivot and replace Carr with a rookie.

I don’t expect that to happen. If Carr is back, keeping Jacobs fits their timeline to win. The franchise doesn’t need to worry about how he’ll wear in three or four years since their window is now. Plus, Jacobs will turn only 25 this February, so he’s still young.

How Josh Jacobs’ Contract Would Affect the Raiders

The Raiders have some cap flexibility to stomach Jacobs’ contract. They’re set to have about $35 million in cap space before any moves are made. Restructuring Carr’s deal is their biggest possible move, and it’d open another $21 million in space.

Though the Raiders desperately need to bolster their defense, this free agent class isn’t particularly strong where their roster needs upgrades. Signing Jacobs won’t preclude them from chasing Da’Ron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson, Javon Hargrave, Jessie Bates, or Tremaine Edmunds. They’d be wise to maximize their 2023 spending potential by pushing his bigger cap hits into future seasons as the Cleveland Browns did with Nick Chubb’s three-year, $36 million extension.

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Chubb’s cap number was only $5.2 million in 2022 before ballooning to $14.85 in 2023 and $16.2 million in 2024. By then, the Raiders can offload bloated deals for Chandler Jones and Waller or Renfrow if the latter two continue to struggle with injuries. The money wheel can keep churning.

What is Josh Jacobs’ Market Value?

It’s true that some of the big running back contracts that have been handed out over the last five years aged poorly. Injuries have significantly hurt the return that Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Ezekiel Elliott have provided their teams. On the other hand, Henry, Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, and Joe Mixon have been worth the big money.

Jacobs will be joined in free agency by Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders this offseason, but he’s younger than both and doesn’t have the same injury concerns as Barkley. He’ll be the best possible signing of the three due to his versatility, track record of production, and age.

Kamara’s $15 million average per year is a good goal for Jacobs’ market value. Kamara and Elliott have the second-highest averages in the league behind McCaffrey. Teams have shied away from resetting the running back market with bigger deals, which is why Chubb only received $12.2 million per year despite being a better talent than Elliott.

We could see teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, and Detroit Lions being active in free agency in pursuing running back upgrades. The threat of losing Jacobs can become very real if there’s competition for his services.

Other Raiders Options at Running Back

The Raiders could look for much more cost-effective options at running back. White appeared to be an excellent fit for McDaniels’ system coming out of Georgia. Adding a veteran like D’Onta Foreman, Jamaal Williams, or Samaje Perine could pack a solid but affordable unit.

Sure, they’ll lack star power, but we’ve seen functional running games with less talented backs. This is also a deep running back draft, so selecting a Day 2 talent like Zach Charbonnet, Tank Bigsby, Sean Tucker, Zach Evans, or Chase Brown might be enough to maintain a productive backfield. This was the New England way for many years.

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It’s also possible they replace a star with a star. Allowing Jacobs to walk and replacing him with Texas stud running back Bijan Robinson wouldn’t be the best usage of assets, considering the value of spending a top-10 pick on the position, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. They could also sign Barkley or Sanders if they have reservations about the contract Jacobs desires.

I’ve rarely advocated for paying a running back, but there are situations in which it’s the best solution. The Raiders should extend Jacobs’ tenure with the franchise. He has the resume and talent needed to be confident in his continued production, and he perfectly fits the timeline of the team.