LaBrandon Toefield went into free agency looking for a team that would promise him playing time. He re-signed with the Jaguars on Thursday with the belief he'll be given a chance to compete for playing time.
"I just want a chance to compete. Ever since I've been with Jacksonville I've been competing. I've been getting turned down for no reason. I talked to the coaches and they feel like I'll get a chance to compete. I don't care, as long as I show what I can do," Toefield told jaguars.com.
A fourth-round pick by the Jaguars in 2003, Toefield has flashed on occasion, but playing behind Fred Taylor never really afforded Toefield an opportunity to do much more than provide security. The situation bottomed out last season when rookie second-round draft choice Maurice Jones-Drew got the playing time Toefield wanted, and Jones-Drew rose to stardom by nearly rushing for a thousand yards.
It was a bitter pill for Toefield to swallow. Coming off a surge in the final two games of the 2005 season, Toefield had reason to believe his playing time would be increased, but it was actually decreased. He played in only four games and got only 10 rushing attempts.
Toefield became an unrestricted free agent on March 2 and four teams – Miami, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Chicago – expressed interest in him. None of those teams, however, told Toefield what he wanted to hear. In each case, he was destined to be a backup.
"It's not what I was looking for but it's better," Toefield said of re-signing with the Jaguars. "All I want to do is play. It's not about the money for me."
The Jaguars backfield will become even more crowded this season with the return of Greg Jones from a season lost to knee surgery. Toefield rejoins Taylor, Jones-Drew, Jones and Alvin Pearman as backfield returnees. So what does he expect his role to be?
"I'm probably thinking backup role. Whatever they give to me I'll take it. I'm competing for any spot they give me," he said. "I wish I had the answer. I work my butt off all the time. They always tell me how great a player I am. I hear that every year."
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio believes Toefield will play more this season.
"I think there's a good chance he'll play. We value him and appreciate him. I'm really glad to have him back. He'll come in and compete and will get time," Del Rio said.
The addition of wide receiver/punt-returner Dennis Northcutt is likely to help Toefield's cause. Northcutt is expected to take the punt-return role away from Pearman, which means Toefield and Pearman will be competing on an even basis to be "active" on game day. Last year, because Pearman was the team's punt-returner, he also served as the team's number three running back and Toefield was deactivated.
In signing Toefield to a one-year contract, the Jaguars were able to maintain amazing depth at running back. They also retain Toefield's rights, and depending on what happens this summer, any one of the four teams interested in him in free agency might be willing to trade for Toefield.
Either way would be fine with Toefield, as long as he gets some playing time.