The Future of MLS “Free Agent” Jermaine Jones

Jermaine Jones may have played his final game with the Colorado Rapids in yesterday’s 1-0 home defeat to Seattle Sounders. With the conclusion of Colorado’s season, Jones is now out of contract with the league. He is not technically a free agent, although his now deleted tweet implies he is thinking of it that way:

jermaine-tweet

The Future of MLS “Free Agent” Jermaine Jones

Jones does not have enough service time to truly qualify as a free agent. He is out of contract with the league, but doesn’t have his pick of destinations like a free agent would. The only way he can pick a club would be leaving MLS entirely and returning to Europe, or Mexico, or wherever (something he is not afraid to do). Should he choose to return to the MLS, Colorado would still retain his rights. He wouldn’t leave the Rapids without money or a player coming in exchange.

That said, he is looking for a Designated Player contract and a raise over his $650,000 salary from this season. He made $3.05 million with New England Revolution in 2015. Jones is coming off a suspension and injury shortened 2016 that saw him start only 11 matches. He was very, very effective in that limited playing time, but it’s hard to picture any club giving him a significant bump in pay based on such a small sample.

Injuries Will Hurt His Value

Jermaine Jones began his season in the middle of April after serving a six game suspension for charging at Mark Geiger in New England’s playoff match against D.C. United at the end of 2015. Seven matches in, he was called in to the United States Men’s National Team for Copa America. Upon returning, he played in one match before injuring his knee and missing the next three months. He wasn’t able to play a full 90 minutes until the first leg of the Western Conference Final against Seattle.

This recent injury history will take a toll on his value. Colorado, or whoever ends up with Jones on their roster next year, will have to wonder about the stability of that knee. Jones is no spring chicken at 35 years old. At that age, knees don’t exactly heal the way they used to and only the slightest knock could see him sitting out for months at a time again.

The hard part for him will be proving that his knee will be able to hold up to a long MLS season after a winter’s long layoff.

He’s Still A Solid MLS Midfielder

When Jones was out there, he was one of Colorado’s best players. He scored three goals in his first four matches of the season. He’s provided a pair of assists on the year as well, including the one on the lone Rapids goal of the Sounders series. He was probably their best attacking piece in the second leg loss on Sunday.

He’s a versatile player who can fill roles on either end of the midfield. He can launch shots and play key passes as a number ten when required. He can also track back and defend with reckless abandon at the back. When I say reckless, I really mean it. Although he was never sent off in MLS play, he did pick up five yellow cards in his 13 total appearances.

This is not a useless set of skills. Assuming he can stay healthy, he has every chance of being a productive MLS player next season. I’m sure many teams will be willing to use his services as a player as long as they can afford his contract.

Possible Destinations

There is little doubt that Colorado would want to hang onto Jones if they can find the money to sate his contract demands. If they chose not to do so, where can Jones land?  Somebody will be willing to give him a DP or TAM level deal, even considering his age and health status. I wouldn’t expect $3.05 million, but a raise from $650,000 is certainly possible.

What we are looking for are teams with a DP slot open, a hole in the midfield, and the willingness to spend a sizeable chunk of change. LA Galaxy would come to mind fairly quickly. Steven Gerrard is retiring and Jones could slot into his position and probably play better throughout the course of a season. With the Galaxy in a bit of a state of flux right now, I don’t think he ends up there.

He could always return to New England. They have the DP space and already paid him a few million dollars once, why not give it another go? However, would they be willing to sacrifice the development of Scott Caldwell or Gershon Koffie for a season? Are they willing to move on from Lee Nguyen in the attacking midfield? I think there are too many questions with the Revs for him to make a return.

One of the expansion sides is also an option. Atlanta United is owned by the filthy rich Arthur Blank and could use the name of Jermaine Jones to further build on the hype already surrounding that franchise. Minnesota United is yet to make any sort of significant singing. They are trending towards a more cautious start and not aiming for any super expensive player, but maybe a low level DP deal for Jones would be up their alley.

When all is said and done, I think Jones returns to Colorado if he chooses to remain in MLS. They already own his rights, have the best knowledge of his health, and have first hand experience with what he can do. He would likely see a small pay raise bought down by Targeted Allocation Money since the Rapids already have three Designated Players. Despite plenty of other options, this seems like the most logical.

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