A few weeks after expressing displeasure at the New England Revolution for what he seemed to characterize as a low-ball contract offer, Jermaine Jones has told Jeff Carlisle of ESPN that he would be willing to take a pay cut to return to Foxboro.
The caveat, of course, is that he would like an increase in guaranteed years.
"But I want to have guaranteed years," he told Carlisle after Monday's U.S. National Team training session. "I don't want to sit here every year and say 'Where are you going? Where do you want to get trade?' (sic) I want to be focused to the World Cup and after the World Cup I want to say 'It's done.'"
In sum, Jones is willing to get paid less than the $3.05 million he made last season in guaranteed compensation - perhaps substantially less, despite his Twitter protests before Christmas - but he wants a guarantee on his future. It looks like he is trying to be locked up through the 2018 season, which would mean a three-year deal that would take him up to his 37th birthday if the Revs made the playoffs in that final year.
It's not a terribly unreasonable request, but in MLS, guaranteed contracts are tricky business. The league was built on teams having total or near-total control over player contracts and movement. Only the last CBA mostly did away with semi-guaranteed contracts, and the bulk of the MLS player pool is still signed to contracts with unilateral club options that can be exercised yearly.
Throughout the Carlisle piece, Jones states that he wants an offer with "the right respect," and that the offer he received before Christmas did not have that. He also stated that there has been no contact between his people and the front office since that offer, confirming what Mike Burns said at the Player Combine last week.
Burns, for his part, has said that Jones "knows what our position is." He refers back to previous statements that Jones is "a player we'd like to have back," and also states that Jones has "other options" and is "weighing what he wants to do." All of this has been made clear to Jones and his representatives, and that's "kind of where it stands."
Jones is a player known for being outspoken, and he isn't shy about voicing his displeasure at certain things, even if he's not in the right. Without seeing the numbers, it is possible that the Revs made a reasonable offer that Jones refused, and now he's walking back his comments. Burns and the Revolution, however, have a bit of a history of low-balling players who ask for more money, usually in a way that leaves the players with a bad taste in their mouths.
However, it's worth noting that the Revs may not be wrong in taking a hard line with Jones, if they are even taking such a line at all. He will miss six matches to start the 2016 season due to suspension, a number that could easily swell to ten games given his National Team commitments. Jones claims to be fully healthy now, but he said the same thing after offseason hernia surgery last year, and then he suffered yet another hernia injury over the summer. Jones isn't getting younger now, and while paying half a million dollars for him at age 34-35 may not seem like a burden, paying it at age 37 might.
The obvious counter there is that the Revs are 20-7-7 with Jones on the pitch since he joined the club in 2014. He was an integral part of the MLS Cup Finals run two seasons ago, and when healthy, he adds a dynamic to the midfield that makes every player around him better. The argument for signing him would be to capture even a piece of that again.
The parties are at a bit of an impasse, and it seems like one side will need to make some manner of concession to bridge this gap. Either Jermaine Jones has to swallow his pride and take a massive paycut to get the years he wants - more massive than he has already offered, perhaps - or the Revs need to accept that getting the Jones you want now at age 34 means overpaying for him in three years.