When Thomas Jones made noise about getting a new contract last week it was easy for the Jets to play hardball. Jones is getting older, has two years left on his deal and is a capable, but not game-breaking, back. It will be harder for them to ignore Leon Washington's machinations for more money.
Washington is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and just about every Jets watcher is in agreement that the team's offense performs better the more he touches the ball. Rich Cimini of the Daily News relays some comments from Thursday that make it clear Washington has heard such buzz.
"I'm trying to revolutionize the game, trying to take it to the next level like the guys back in the day, like a Dave Meggett, Gale Sayers, guys that did so much and did it so well. I want to bring that style of football back at a high level. In my opinion, that, plus the leadership you have in the locker room, is priceless."
Throwing Sayers' name into the conversation makes Washington sound like a cocky kid overreaching for a comparison. His production doesn't hold a candle. At the same time, he does more for the rushing game than Meggett, a more traditional third-down back/returner did. Washington's true spot is somewhere in the middle, just like Brian Westbrook of the Eagles, in fact.
Cimini runs a side-by-side comparison of Washington's first three years against Westbrook's and the numbers are very similar. The problem, of course, is that Westbrook has been bedeviled by injuries throughout his career, in no small part because a player of his stature wears down with overuse. Washington will always need a running mate, someone like Jones, to do some of the heavy lifting.
How do you put a price tag on a player like that? It's not a priceless skill set, despite Washington's claims, but it is a valuable one. More valuable, in fact, than that provided by Jones and other conventional, but fungible, backs.