NY Jets: End of the Chris Ivory era could be coming soon

Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs with the ball after a reception during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs with the ball after a reception during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The NY Jets might want to head in a different direction at running back heading into the off season. Could the era of Chris Ivory be coming to an end soon?

Chris Ivory is arguably the best move former general manager John Idzik ever made when he was here in New York. Ivory initially came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent taken by the New Orleans Saints at the 2010 NFL Draft. He played his college ball first at Washington State University and then transferred to Tiffin University.

Ivory came to the Jets in a trade during the 2013 draft. Ivory played sporadically for the Saints, but he spent much of his time on the bench or injured. His Saint career lasted three years and saw him play in 24 games as he totaled 1,307 yards and eight touchdowns. Ivory appeared to be ready to be cut by the Saints until the Jets took him in trade for a fourth-round pick.

Given the chance to be the primary back for the Jets, Ivory has responded. In 2013, he impressed Jet fans with his efforts as he played in 15 games, totaling 833 yards on the ground and putting up three touchdowns. The fans got behind Ivory and he quickly became a fan favorite at MetLife Stadium.

Ivory appeared to get even better for the Jets in 2014, when the rest of the team struggled, his role was increased and quietly amassed 821 yards on the ground and posting six touchdowns. Ivory also began to see time as a receiver in 2014, increasing his targets from just seven in 2013, to 27 in 2014. Ivory put up 123 yards through the air and caught the first touchdown reception of his career.

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Ivory isn’t a big back, he measures out at 6’0 and tips the scales at 220 pounds. He’s not big, but Ivory runs like a big guy.

He had a career year for himself in 2015. The season saw him come out and play well in every aspect of his game. Ivory ran with a vengeance this past year, he took on would be tacklers with violent hits.

He broke the 1,000+ yard mark and accounted for seven touchdowns. Once again, his role was increase in the passing game, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey had his name called 37 times and Ivory set his personal best with 30 receptions for 213 receiving yards and his second touchdown reception of his career.

There is no doubt that Ivory has become a fan favorite in New York, and most Jet fans would like him to return to lead this team in 2016. Ivory is a free agent this year however, and general manager Mike Maccagnan will need to decide what to do with the 27 year old back. Fans have told me numerous times and I’ve read many articles claiming that the Jets absolutely need to sign him for the future.

I don’t believe the fans are going to get what they are demanding from Maccagnan this season though. I believe for several reasons that the Jets will be moving on from Ivory this off season, and I’d like to tell you why.

Ivory has been a reliable running back for the Jets since he arrived as he’s done everything the Jets have asked of him and he’s been a leader on offense as well. On the surface, re-signing Ivory sounds like a no brainer. He just had a career year for the Jets this season, he broke over 1,000 yards and accounted for eight touchdowns. Run out and re-sign him most of the fans have told me, but I don’t think there should be any hurry. The Jets need to take their time with this signing and not rush into anything.

The first reason I think the Jets need to be considering is Ivory’s age and the contract he’ll be looking for. Ivory will turn 28 before this year’s draft. As a result, Ivory knows this is his last contract and as such will be looking to cash in before his career ends. Ivory would be foolish not to demand a multiple year deal and after posting such a great season, he has the leverage in any negotiations.

Seven running backs broke the 1,000+ yard mark on the ground in the NFL this season. Ivory did it for his first time and made $2M in salary with $750K in a signing bonus.  To get a idea of what Ivory might be asking, I looked around the league at contracts of the other seven backs that topped 1,000+ yards this season.

Darren McFadden posted 1,089 yards and he’s working on a two-year deal worth $3M. Latavius Murray gained 1,o66 yards and his deal is for four years at a cost of $2.2M. Both of these players however signed deals back in 2013. According to SpotRac.com, Ivory’s market is for a three-year deal worth over $12M. That averages out to a little over $4M a year and Ivory would be 32 if he plays out the deal.

I don’t think the Jets can afford that type of money for a running back that will be 28 years old at the time he signs. I also believe Ivory will want this contract front loaded with guaranteed money, as again, this is likely the last contract of his career. I think the money is the top reason Ivory will be playing elsewhere in 2016.

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs the ball against the New York Giants during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Ivory has been as dependable as they come for the Jets through the first three years with the team. He has played every game but two, but that has not always been the case. Ivory played at Washington State University for three years and appeared in 22 games due to being limited by injuries. After being dismissed from Washington State for breaking team rules, he moved to Tiffin University. Again, injuries arose and Ivory ended his season after only five games with a serious knee injury.

As the result of the injuries and the lack of production at the college level, the Saints picked him up undrafted. Unfortunately for Ivory, injuries once again slowed him. In his initial campaign with the Saints, Ivory impressed posting 716 yards and five touchdowns, but had to battle injuries all along the way. In 2011 and 2012, Ivory only played in twelve games combined for the Saints, as he battled injuries and spent time on the teams injured reserve list.

Ivory will be 28 years old before next season starts and we have seen him battle injuries along the way of his Jet career as well. Ivory has shown guts through his career, playing injured and banged up along the way. Durability was the huge question mark when he went undrafted in 2010 and the Jets would be wise to be concerned when signing him to a new deal.

We saw it this year, Ivory started out running with violence at the start of the season, but he got banged up and was hardly effective as the season wore on. The image of Ivory in Jets’ winter gear standing on the sidelines in Buffalo while the season was on the line spoke volumes of what is likely ahead of him in the years ahead.

That image of Ivory standing on the sideline might very well be the last image Jet fans get to see of Ivory in green and white.

From where I sit, I think the Jets will move on from the aging running back.  The length of his contract and the money he’s likely to be asking make it a wise move for the Jets to part ways. When you factor in his injury history and his durability questions heading into his latter years, the Jets would be much better off with a different running back next season. The Jets can try to trade him, but it that fails, they should let him test the waters of free agency.

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs with the ball while being pursued by Miami Dolphins cornerback Brice McCain (24) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

I understand the loyalty Jet fans feel for Ivory, he’s a dynamic player and has been a leader for this organization. I’m not taking anything away from Ivory, he’s been a solid back for the Jets. In his time here he’s put together three good years and has gained 2,724 yards for the team since arriving. He’s brought the ball into the end zone 16 times on the ground since joining the Jets and added two more through the air as well. Unfortunately for Ivory, he’s aging and a long-term deal worth millions of dollars should be out of the realm of possibilities for the Jets.

Look, I like the guy too, I enjoyed watching him run for the last three years. Yet, this is the nature of the business, a running back’s career is the shortest of any position in the modern era of football. Running backs take a beating in the trenches and their life expectancy in the league has grown shorter and shorter as the years go by.

We saw it last year when the Cowboys traded away the NFL’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray. Ten years ago that was unthinkable, but we all saw what happened to Murray after signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Jets simply can’t afford that type of result after signing Ivory to a multi-year deal.

Ivory is a smaller back and in the modern era of football, smaller backs show the wear and tear of the league much quicker than they did years ago. Today’s NFL has grown huge along the fronts over the years. When someone of his size runs straight ahead into 300+ pound linemen continually, it takes a toll quickly. Ivory is a talented back, but his style of running is shortening his career. He runs straight ahead, and even when he can avoid the big guys upfront, Ivory takes on bigger linebackers with vicious hits. Ivory is slowing as a result and the Jets should take notice.

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Maccagnan has repeatedly said that his goal in building this team was to get younger and faster. With ample availability in this year’s draft, the Jets should look for a back of the future. In the process they can get younger and faster all while doing their best to save as much as they can of salary cap space.

That’s my take on what the Jets should do with Ivory. Of course time will tell what the Jets will do concerning his pending deal. In the meantime, let’s discuss this one! I’d like to please ask all my readers to leave us a comment below and as always, Let’s Talk Jet Football!!