(Editorial) – Houston, Jermaine Jones has landed. In Denver. Last week, the Colorado Rapids traded for and signed midfielder Jermaine Jones. The Rapids sent General Allocation Money and their 2017 SuperDraft 1st round pick to the New England Revolution in the trade. Colorado also used Target Allocation Money on Jones. As such, he will not occupy a Designated Player slot.
This signing may come as a surprise considering Jones’s circumstances. He is serving a six game suspension and won’t be available until Colorado’s match against Sporting Kansas City on April 13th. The 34-year-old has also been injury prone in recent years due to age and his physical style of play. Spending the last year and a half playing on turf hasn’t helped. That said, they’re getting a very experienced veteran who will bring some much needed bite to the midfield.
The Rapids might have given up a lot to get him. We don’t know how much GAM was exchanged, but the Rapids will probably draft in the top half of the first round and that pick now belongs to the Revs. The Rapids don’t have a great history in the draft, so maybe this pick isn’t that big of a deal. We’ll have to wait and see.
Still, the big question for the 2016 Colorado Rapids is ‘what is the plan?’ Jones probably won’t be the difference between the Rapids making a run at the playoffs or not this year. But Colorado signing Jermaine Jones will help them build for the future, even if he won’t be there to see it. Let’s break it down:
Setting An Example For The Rapkids:
The Rapids have a lot of young talent, especially in the midfield. Dillon Powers and Dillon Serna are at the center of the ‘Rapkids’ core. Then there’s recently acquired Zach Pfeffer and 2016 SuperDraft pick Emmanuel Appiah. None of them fit the exact same mold as Jones, but they all share somethings in common with him. They also could learn a lot from Jones.
We’ve seen this veteran mentorship work in the past for MLS clubs. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane had a tremendous impact on Gyasi Zardes’s development. Bobby Boswell has helped Steve Birnbaum in D.C. United. You better believe Clint Dempsey is going to be in Jordan Morris’s ear all season long up in Seattle.
Even if Jones only starts half of the games this season, he’ll provide a spark of energy and grit at training and in the locker room. The Rapids midfield hasn’t really had that in recent years, certainly not since Powers and Serna arrived in 2013. Everyone of the Rapkid midfielders could add some physicality to their game. Jones will teach them that. While some of his decisions on the field are misguided, his will and resolve are strong. This is another quality the young players and team as a whole could use.
Jones might not make it to the 2018 MLS season, but his impact on this group should be felt by then. He will help Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni tremendously to mold these players for the long term.
Jones And Cronin Will Eat Opponents Alive:
The Rapids came out in a 4-2-3-1 on Sunday against the San Jose Earthquakes. We could see that formation again with Jones and Sam Cronin in the middle. A 4-3-3 isn’t a bad idea now either, with Jones finally being able to fulfill his desires to play a game similar to Pirlo. We’ll have to wait and see.
Regardless, this finally gives Powers another central midfielder he can combine with going forward. Jones is an excellent partner for Powers in the attack and Cronin in the defense. He has the ability to move forward and distribute and also sit back and disrupt the opponent.
Basically, Jones and Cronin are going to eat opposing attackers alive. Cronin was second on the team in fouls committed last year with 38. Going back to the 2012 Supporter’s Shield winning Quakes, he’s finished at least fourth in fouls committed every year for his team. He’s one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in MLS. The Rapids defense took a big hit this off-season with the departure of center back Drew Moore and goalkeeper Clint Irwin. The defense could be a big weakness for the Rapids in 2016. Jones and Cronin should be up to the task of shielding the back four.
Spending TAM Probably Isn’t A Big Deal:
The Rapids used some TAM to pay down Jones’s contract so that he is not a DP. But we don’t know how much because MLS is as transparent as a brick sometimes. That’s ok in this case because the Rapids needed to spend it anyways. The Rapids only have two active DPs right now (Shkelzen Gashi and Kevin Doyle). Juan Ramirez is currently on loan. If the Rapids were going to bring Ramirez back or sign a third DP, they’d have done it by now. They might want to do either of those in the summer, so it’s a good thing they gave themselves that flexibility by not making Jones a DP.
MLS is investing $1.6 million in TAM for each franchise over the next two years ($800,000 this year and $800,000 again in 2017). If a team doesn’t spend all of it, that money goes back to the league. If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s unlikely the Rapids spent all or most of their TAM allotment on Jones. Still, with a third DP slot open, who else were they going to spend it on?
This signing committed time sensitive resources that were not being used otherwise. The investment may not be worth the on field production. But if Jones helps Powers turn into an MLS All Star, makes Serna above average, and energizes the fan base, it will be worth it.
The Rapids still have an open DP slot they can use to sign another player in the summer or off-season. They most likely still have some TAM left over. And the time sensitive TAM that they didn’t have much use for elsewhere was spent on a player who won’t be around that much longer. At the very least, they won’t let the money go back to the league.