HENDERSON, Nev. — Running back Josh Jacobs, fresh off his first career NFL rushing title and heading toward free agency, said Monday during locker cleanout day that he’d like to return to the Las Vegas Raiders next season if he and the team can agree on a contract.
“For me, it’s got to make sense,” he said, referencing a potential new contract, meaning, dollars and cents.
“But this is obviously where I want to be. Coming in, I remember sitting down with [defensive end] Maxx [Crosby] and all these guys and talking about the Raiders organization and the culture and wanting to be part of the change. I still feel that way so, hopefully, I’ll be back.”
While Crosby was a fourth-round pick in 2019 and signed a four-year, $99 million extension last spring, Jacobs was the second of the Raiders’ three first-round draft picks in 2019, No. 24 overall, after defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who was fourth, and before safety Johnathan Abram, who went 27th.
None of them had their fifth-year options picked up by the Raiders’ new regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels last offseason. Jacobs, though, responded with a career year, even as the team foundered and finished 6-11 a year after going to the playoffs with a 10-7 record.
In rushing for 1,653 yards, Jacobs became the first Raiders player to lead the league in rushing since Marcus Allen ran for 1,759 yards in his NFL MVP season of 1985. He’s the third in franchise history to accomplish the feat as Clem Daniels led the AFL with 1,099 rushing yards in 1963.
Jacobs, selected to his second career Pro Bowl, also led the NFL with 93 rushing first downs and 2,053 total scrimmage yards.
Still, Jacobs downplayed the personal accomplishments.
“I mean, I guess it feels good,” he said. “I don’t really feel no different. Obviously, it’s a testament to the team and the guys that helped me along the way. So that’s definitely dope to be able to experience it with them. But for me, personally, it’s just, whatever. For real.”
McDaniels, meanwhile, seemed confident Jacobs would return to the team.
“Obviously J.J.’s performance was a huge bright spot for us,” McDaniels said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for him as a person and as a player and he kind of embodies all the things that we want a Raider to be.
“Dave and I have talked about that; J.J. and I have had private conversations about those kinds of things. I think all that will play out in due time. But love him and would love to have him continue to be a Raider.”
It was a mutual admiration society two days after the Raiders’ season ended with a 31-13 loss to the AFC West champion and No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs.
And Jacobs referenced the coach who drafted him out of Alabama four years ago.
“Obviously, [Jon] Gruden is a great football mind, but these guys, man, take it to another level just when it comes to the way they explain things and the way they utilize certain guys,” Jacobs said. “So, just learning their offensive playbook, learning the terminology and then taking it and putting my own little spin on it, it’s definitely been fun.
“The way we go about working, [this is] definitely the best working group that I’ve been around since being in the NFL. It’s just about putting the little pieces together right now, and identifying what those little pieces are, identifying each player’s role and just trying to execute that to the fullest.”
A multiyear contract would probably be preferred by Jacobs. But should the Raiders choose to slap a one-year franchise tag on him, OverTheCap.com projects it to be a relatively modest $10.1 million for running backs next season, a number sure to go up when the 2023 salary cap is announced.
Besides a decision coming on Jacobs, it is all but a certainty that quarterback Derek Carr, the team’s starter since his rookie season of 2014 and holder of most franchise passing records, will not return after he was benched with two games to play. He stayed away from the team in a “mutual” decision the past two weeks.
Jacobs was asked his take on Carr.
“The biggest thing I take from Derek is, just the great person that he is,” Jacobs said. “Me and Derek went to church a couple times together and things like that and just to see him be loving and supporting, that’s the thing that I’ll take from him the most. He’s just a great dude, for real.”