One of the more surprising moves by the Raiders this off-season was the release of James Jones who was last year's leading receiver for the team. The move caught many people off guard considering that Jones had just had his career high in receptions with 73 and was a veteran leader with a great personality in the locker room. The Raiders had gone and signed Michael Crabtree and drafted Amari Cooper, but there still seemed like there should have been a place for James Jones too.
Now James Jones found his way back to the Green Bay Packers where he spent all but the one season of his career playing for. In his first game back in Green Bay he caught 2 TD passes that counted, and one that was even more impressive that didn't count. Afterwards, he sat down with Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB with Peter King to talk about his journey.
It is a pretty interesting interview in general where James Jones has his effusive personality on full display, but there is one thing in particular that is noticeable when reading it. He says sitting down with Reggie McKenzie it was said to him that Jack Del Rio wanted to go in a different direction, that he wanted to go younger with the receivers surrounding 2nd year QB Derek Carr.
"When I went in there and I talked to Reggie [McKenzie], he said, ‘J.J., Jack Del Rio wants to go a different route. He wants to go a little younger and have the receivers grow up with Derek Carr.' Even though Michael Crabtree is 28 years old." Jones told Vrentas, "So that was their choice, and I just told them, ‘Thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate everything that you guys have done for me.' And I walked out the door."
This is interesting because when James Jones was released it seemed more like a cost cutting move and one out of respect for Jones when he got pushed down the depth chart. That I can understand far better than cutting a productive, crafty veteran who was a great leader and example for the team just for the sake of getting younger at the position.
Derek Carr had developed an excellent relationship with James Jones and definitely had strong chemistry with Jones considering how often he targeted him last year. Jones was a productive member of the team and obviously still had more left in the tank. It was a questionable move when it was thought to be a cost cutting move, but it's baffling now that it appears to have been a decision about age.
It shouldn't be about the age of a player, it should be about their production. Justin Tuck is an older player, but he is a veteran leader that is still productive. It isn't about age, it is about whether or not they earned their right to be on the team. Tuck earned that right, and after leading the team in receptions last year so should have James Jones. It wasn't just the fans that were surprised by this cut, James Jones himself was too.
"That was a great year back in Oakland, being able to play in front of the family. I thought I was going to be a part of the new coach coming in, and I thought I helped the young quarterback extremely my first year. I had the most catches I've ever had in my career and six touchdowns, so I thought I was going to be part of the future. But you never know with this business."
The Raiders receivers are a solid group with or without Jones, but the motive behind the release of him is definitely questionable. Jack Del Rio came in and made this decision without even giving Jones a chance to show what he could do. It's similar to what we saw with Sio Moore but without the contention. If the product on the field showed up this wouldn't matter, but the week one loss was embarrassing and that does make this more of an issue.
All the promise from the off-season went up in smoke right in week 1, it was without a doubt one of the worst performances the Raiders have ever shown in an opener. That loses respect for Del Rio right off the bat, as does his handling of Sio Moore, and now as does his handling of James Jones. When you remove a leader in the locker room you affect the chemistry of the team, and the team that was fielded on Sunday definitely lacked chemistry.
It just does not make any sense to cut a productive veteran who had a great relationship with the team and the young QB you still have to develop. There is a place for youth in football, but there is also a place for veteran leadership. James Jones had proven to be a solid, productive veteran leader with the Raiders last year and he was cast aside before even being given a chance with the new staff. It is just the start to Jack Del Rio's era in Oakland, but moves like this coupled with the way the team played last week is definitely not a good start to that era.