We knew this was coming. We all knew. Now it’s just a question of how long Maurice Jones-Drew’s powerplay lasts.

When he didn’t report to the Jaguars’ mandatory three-day mini-camp today as expected, Jones-Drew’s holdout officially became official. GM Gene Smith has said he has no desire to renegotiate his stud running back’s contract, and he can fine MJD up to $60,000 per day for every mandatory team activity he misses. Jones-Drew led the league in rushing last year with 1,606 yards on 4.7 yards per carry, and he’s due to make $4.45 million next year in the third year of a five-year deal signed in 2009. Unlike Ray Rice and Matt Forte, two other running backs looking to get paid after they were franchised, Jones-Drew is still under contract for two more years, which is why he can be punished by his team.

Yesterday we outlined the trenches being dug by both sides. Right now as we sit in mid June there doesn’t appear to be much room for compromise, but deadlines have a way of influencing concessions. Jones-Drew wants a restructured deal that better reflects his value and production, but his birth certificate gives Smith leverage. There’s little reason for Smith to move quickly to hand a 27-year-old running back more money than the figures he’s already signed and is contractually obligated to play under for the next two years.

MJD’s wild card, though, is Jacksonville’s young quarterback. Blaine Gabbert was rushed into his starting position last year, and he played like it. Consequently, MJD was leaned on heavily, finishing with 343 carries, the highest total of his career. Between the signing of Laurent Robinson and bringing in Justin Blackmon as a top five pick, there are more weapons for Gabbert in what will be a grow up or go home season.

But even with those vast improvements on the WR depth chart, MJD is still a crucial component in Gabbert’s future if he intends to have a future in Jacksonville beyond the 2012 season. Behind Jones-Drew is Rashad Jennings, who missed last season with a knee injury, and has limited experience (123 carries over two years).

Without Jones-Drew, the production and futures of two first-round draft picks–primarily Gabbert, and by extension Blackmon–could suffer, and that would be a death blow for a team that’s struggling to create excitement and put rear ends in seats. There’s a lot at stake, and this holdout could easily spill into the regular season.

Good luck, Gene Smith. We’re all counting on you.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Stephen Ross is considering changes to the Miami Dolphins uniform. I think we can safely assume that to boost the Hard Knocks ratings he’s going to produce a uniform plastered in Lauren Tannehill images, creating a pleasant collage of oogling. [Ben Volin]
  • Nothing beats feeling super smart in the morning, or any time really. So here’s your advanced stat breakfast: 36% of all NFL champs finish first in passer rating differential. [Cold Hard Football Facts]
  • The conversation about how the first gay player will be treated in an NFL locker room has surfaced several times over the past few weeks, most recently when Wade Davis, who was cut from several training camps a decade ago, reflected on his experiences as a still closeted gay player. Now Texans linebacker Connor Barwin says that the first gay player may feel uncomfortable initially simply because he’s a pioneer of sorts, but those feelings will quickly be erased by the welcoming nature of an NFL locker room, where winning is all that really matters. [Out Sports]
  • Ronnie Brown is a running back who recently turned 30 years old. Somehow he didn’t die, and he lived to talk about his experiences as one of the oldest of his kind. [San Diego Union-Tribune]
  • Another player is pissed off about his ranking on a completely arbitrary and meaningless list. Tell us why, Michael Vick. [Inside the Iggles]
  • Vince Young may have become the latest former college star and high draft pick to be victimized by a money-hungry agent early in his career. [Houston Chronicle]
  • What we already assumed about Donald Driver’s contract has now become clear. He’s in Green Bay for a victory lap this year that will extend into retirement. [Total Packers]
  • Jake Ballard was promptly waived by the Giants yesterday when he failed his physical after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl, but he expects to return in 2013. [New York Daily News]

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