Updated August 26, 2023 - 6:07 pm
ARLINGTON, Texas — Somewhere between the appetizers and main course Thursday night at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Scarpetta restaurant, whatever wedge remained between the Raiders and star running back Josh Jacobs began to fade.
By the time Jacobs and his agent Chad Wiestling wrapped up dinner with Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler, a bridge that would ultimately deliver Jacobs back to the club had been built.
“We were able to have some open conversations and laid some things on the table,” Ziegler said. “And if there was anything we needed to get on the same page on, we were able to do that.”
Jacobs and the Raiders have agreed on a one-year contract worth up to $12 million for the 2023 season. That represents a nearly $2 million increase from what Jacobs was scheduled to make on the $10.1 million franchise tag the Raiders applied to him in March.
Jacobs will officially sign the contract Sunday and is expected to begin practicing with the Raiders next week with plans to play in the season opener Sept. 10 at Denver.
The dinner on Thursday night was the clincher, as it allowed Ziegler, Jacobs and Wiestling a chance to talk face-to-face and find the necessary common ground to end a contract dispute that kept Jacobs away from the club throughout the entire offseason program and all of training camp.
“We were able to talk through some things and run through some things,” Ziegler said. “There had been some conversations before that laid a couple of bricks down. But I think Thursday night is where we started to get some movement.”
Part of which meant increasing Jacobs’ potential earnings by nearly $2 million above the franchise tag
“We wanted to do something that we were going to be good with and the player was going to be happy about,” Ziegler said. “And I think that’s where we’re at.”
The former Alabama star went to social media to inform fans of his return on Saturday morning, saying, “I’m back.”
I’m back 😈😏
— Josh Jacobs (@iAM_JoshJacobs) August 26, 2023
The Raiders have been optimistic that Jacobs would eventually return to the fold, and the financial liability he would have assumed by sitting out games was so prohibitive it always made sense he would be back in time for the start of the season.
Jacobs, a first-round pick by the Raiders in 2019, has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons. That includes his league-leading and career-high 1,653 yards last season.
Jacobs’ 2022 season came on the heels of the Raiders’ decision to not pick up his fifth-year option for 2023. As a result, he was in line to become a free agent in March.
Jacobs and the club worked on a multiyear contract prior to the official opening of free agency, but when talks failed to produce a deal, the Raiders opted to apply the nonexclusive franchise tag on him.
The tag distinction allowed more time for the two sides to negotiate a long-term deal. But when the NFL’s July 17 deadline to do so passed, any possibility of an extended deal was pushed to after the end of the 2023 season.
Ziegler said the Raiders remain open to pursuing a long-term deal with Jacobs.
“If it works out that way, and obviously there’s a lot of moving parts, but it’s something that we’ll definitely consider and have interest in doing,” Ziegler said.
The question now is, can the Raiders count on Jacobs in the season opener against the Broncos?
The Raiders are expected to practice twice this week and then return to a normal three-practice work week leading up to the game. Are five practices enough to get Jacobs in the type of football shape he needs to be in to go full throttle in Denver?
“We’ll wait and make a smart decision on that once we’re able to start practicing, see where we’re at, and take it from there,” Ziegler said.
Other possibilities include a limited role for Jacobs against the Broncos while sharing playing time with second-year running back Zamir White, or sitting Jacobs against Denver with an eye on making his season debut on Sept. 17 against the Bills in Buffalo.