The summer doldrums are usually good for two things.

1) A mess of speculation regarding depth charts, quarterback competitions and NFL players and their troubles with the law – it’s an eclectic mix.

2) An elite group of players are looking to capitalize on their recent success with new contracts.

The latter is infinitely more interesting to yours truly. We get to see how franchises – both successful and terrible – value their best players. Miami gave DE Cameron Wake a four year contract extension with $20 million guaranteed. Conversely, Wes Welker signed his franchise tender this afternoon and will have to wait for his long term contract for at least one more season.

When Maurice Jones-Drew skipped the Jaguars first voluntary off-season training activities it raised eyebrows. A notoriously hard worker and team leader, Jones-Drew would help new head coach Mike Mularkey install a new culture in Jacksonville. Mularkey claimed he didn’t know why MJD was absent. He does now.

PFT’s Josh Alper:

As has been widely reported but unconfirmed by either party to this point, Jones-Drew is staying away from the Jaguars because he wants a new contract from the team. The NFL’s leading rusher in 2011 has two years left on his contract and is set to make a total of $9.4 million.“It’s all voluntary. I wish he was here. He knows we wish he was here,” Mularkey said, via Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union. “He’s talked about trying to get an extension for his contract.”

New Jaguars owner Shahid Khan would do well to avoid a holdout with the teams most recognizable face and best player. Khan’s goal of developing the team into a global brand – a ridiculously tough task in it’s own right – is not possible without Jones-Drew.

But is it a worthwhile investment to give a 26 year-old running back a multi-year contract extension?

Age (N) Total Number Better at Age N +1 Worse at Age N+1 % Improved
26 57 31 26 54
27 39 20 19 51
28 34 13 21 38
29 26 10 16 38
30 19 7.5 11.5 39

The chart above, taken from our friends at pro-football reference, measures the productivity of running backs as they age. Out of the 57 running backs who met the base requirements at age 26, 54% improved their stats in their age 27 season. That percentage declines as age increases. In their age 29 season, only 38% of running backs improved on their performance in the prior year.

Maurice Jones-Drew’s current value to the Jags is undeniable. However, it may not be in Jacksonville’s best interests to reward the running back with an extension. For PR purposes alone it’s hard to envision Khan not agreeing to some sort of contract extension with MJD. Football wise, the move may set a rebuilding franchise further adrift.