Jones-Drew signs $31M deal

Updated: April 15, 2009, 11:25 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Maurice Jones-Drew agreed Wednesday to an extension that will make him one of the three highest-paid running backs in football.

Jones-Drew signed a four-year extension, that makes for a five-year deal worth $31 million. A $17.5 million signing bonus in guaranteed, sources told ESPN.com.

"It really was a matter of wanting more Maurice," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We want Maurice on the field more often. We believe he's a feature guy and it's his time. We're excited about that."

The contract is believed to top the six-year, $49.1 million deal signed by Clinton Portis of the Redskins in 2006. Steven Jackson of the Rams is the highest-paid running back. He signed a five-year, $48.5 million deal last season. Larry Johnson of the Chiefs is next. He has a five-year, $43.14 million contract.

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Jones-Drew was entering the final year of his contract and was scheduled to make $535,000.

With the release of Fred Taylor, Jones-Drew, who has averaged 4.8 yards a carry during his career, becomes the team's feature back. He had 941 yards as a rookie and last season gained 824 yards on 197 carries and rushed for 12 touchdowns.

"I'm very confident this is the type of young man that will go out and continue to display the things that have made him so popular to begin with," Del Rio said. "He's gonna get plenty of work. We're excited about getting him the ball more often.

"We were doing the best that we could as a staff of recognizing the talent and paying the respect to Fred while he was here and couldn't wait to get Maurice in the game. Now, he's our guy."

Jones-Drew has 34 rushing touchdowns during his three-year career. He also has four receiving scores and two return touchdowns.

Jones-Drew has 2,533 yards rushing and 1,408 yards receiving since Jacksonville made him a second-round draft pick in 2006. He has averaged 4.8 yards a carry, 9.5 yards a reception and been at his best in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

He rarely fumbles, has few dropped passes and has a knack for making big plays and scoring touchdowns. He has become a leader in the locker room and a fan favorite because of his fearlessness, friendliness and flair for turning negative plays into first downs.

"I still love the game," Jones-Drew said. "I'm going to play the way I play. Nothing's going to change. You see some guys get paid and they kind of shut it down. That's not how I was raised, that's not how I ever played the game before. I'm going to continue to play and work hard and do everything I can to help this team win."

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from Paul Kuharsky and The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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