Latest On Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley

The Packers have not dusted off their franchise tag in a while, last using it on nose tackle Ryan Pickett in 2010. They may be on the verge of a change in offseason strategy.

Beginning his fourth offseason as GM, Brian Gutekunst has top-tier free agents Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley barely a week away from being able to negotiate with other teams for the first time. An All-Pro center, Linsley expects to test the market. This would leave Jones in the tag crosshairs.

We certainly could (tag Jones). I think it’s something we’re working through. Again, it’s not a philosophical thing to avoid it,” Gutekunst said of using the tag, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “I do think there’s usually better ways to go about it, but certainly if I think as we get down the road here over the next week or so, if that becomes what is in the best interest of the Packers, I think we’ll do that. But at this point, we haven’t done that.”

It cost the Titans $10.3MM to tag Derrick Henry last year, though the sides reached an extension agreement on deadline day last July. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s anticipated impact on the 2021 cap, the Packers may have the opportunity to tag Jones at barely $8MM. This would be a difficult scenario for Jones, who saw fellow 2017 draftees Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon cash in — all on deals worth at least $12MM annually — last year. But it would allow the Packers an unusual way to retain one of the best players.

The Packers and Jones negotiated extensively last year, and the 25-year-old running back changed agents during the process. An offer that would have paid Jones at least $12MM annually did not result in a deal. That proposal was light on guarantees, however. The team has until March 9 to tag Jones. Green Bay RB2 Jamaal Williams is expected to depart via free agency, which would seemingly elevate 2020 second-round pick A.J. Dillon.

A 2014 fifth-round pick, Linsley agreed on a Packers extension that ran through 2020. Coming off an All-Pro season, Linsley appears poised to approach or surpass Ryan Kelly‘s market-topping contract ($12.4MM AAV, $25MM fully guaranteed). It does not sound like the Packers will extend him to keep him off the market by the time the legal tampering period begins March 15.

Finding a way to bring him back would be ideal, but at the same time obviously, at the level of compensation that he’s at, he’s earned that,” Gutekunst said. “We certainly would never close the door on someone like Corey Linsley. We’ll see as we get down what’s possible and what’s not.”

Going into the spring tag deadline, the Packers have work to do before being free to tag Jones. They are more than $11MM over the projected salary cap, even after a David Bakhtiari restructure and the releases of Rick Wagner and Christian Kirksey. The Packers are discussing a restructure with Aaron Rodgers, Demovsky adds.

A $6.8MM Rodgers roster bonus could be converted to a signing bonus without the quarterback’s approval, creating $4.5MM in 2021 cap space. And the Packers could also move some of Rodgers’ 2021 base salary ($14.8MM) into a signing bonus to free up more room. This would, of course, complicate matters down the road. But the NFL’s post-2021 future is unlikely to include any further cap reductions, likely making present restructures easier to stomach for teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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23 comments on “Latest On Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley

  1. DobieMoore4HOF

    Let both go and sign Lavonte David and draft a corner with their first round pick.

      • Rocket32

        twentyforty He’s right about letting Jones go. Let another team give him that big contract, their better off spending it on other parts of the roster.

          • bdpecore

            As much as it might upset Jones it would only delay him cashing in by one year while still getting a significant raise. It also allows the Packers one more year to run things back and push for a championship. Sign a veteran slot CB, LB and some DL depth and then hopefully use the draft to find starters at CB, OT, and WR along with depth at DL, RB, OLB and S.

            This team isn’t that far off from being a Bono fife

  2. Freddie Morales

    I think they tag and trade Jones to the Dolphins and Linsley signs with Jags or Jets.

    • wrigleyhawkeye

      Agreed. Even if they then trade him. He’s a 3rd round comp pick for sure so it would have to be a trade for a first or second. Not sure how teams value a HB of his caliber fir one year, albeit at a good price tag.

          • HailRodgers12$

            They’re still over the cap though, so not quite a “no brainer”

            If it was, they probably would have done it already.

        • Sportsfantatic

          Aaron Jones wont refuse just bc Bell and Gordon refuse to play on a tag dont mean Jones will.. The way Jones came up as an underclassman from a military family i dont see it!! His pops wont appreciate him sitting out bc of money.. Plus history shows us players who sit out one yr tend to struggle the next yr…

          • Pete66

            Aaron Jones’ TD celebration is simply to pull out his GB Packer neckless – who else does that??!!! His money will come in ’22, but the window for an A-Rod S.B. is closing – Jones won’t sit-out under a tag when he’s the spark to get us there. I strongly doubt a Center will lose us a Super Bowl run, and we can’t pay Bakhtiari $23M money for 1/5th of our O-line. I love Jamaal W, but he’s not A.Jones, and AJ Dillon has already shown he can push the pile. The running game is set … as soon as Gute puts on the F-tag.

    • Pete66

      This is a no-brainer in my book – tag him!
      Aaron Jones is the running game all by himself, and we need game changers to get to the SB. Nobody will say the super bowl was won by the Center, but weakness in the run game hampers the pass, and the whole offense is diminished. Alvin K & Zeke E make $15M/yr – we need to find $8M to keep the guy who often shows off his GB Packer neckless as his TD celebration.

      • HailRodgers12$

        Still don’t have the money to do it.
        The problem with a “no brainer” is, well, not thinking about the consequences.
        I’m all for keeping jones (and Williams, as I don’t have as much faith in Dillon, who essentially had 1 good rushing game but is still nowhere near JW or Jones in pass protection or catching the ball), but unless they work a miracle with the cap situation they simply CAN’T “just tag him” like people want.

  3. Ak185

    Of the two, Linsley is definitely the priority. Both Jones and Linsley are good, but only one was best at his position last year. The Packers have a few defensive needs too, so that $8 million could come in handy if Jones does end up walking.

  4. Sportsfantatic

    This is a hard Debate Lindsley will be gone sucks but the depth at OL plus they found Jenkins can play just as good at Center than Lindsley. Plus Lindsley will cost them anything north of 15+Mil/yr for a guy on the wrong side of 30.. No thank youuu… As for Aaron Jones thats also another tough pill to swallow he liked the 12mil/yr but lack of a guarentee deal.. Id offer him 2 offers. Offer him less per yr like 10mil with more Guarentee and a back loaded/Diverted contract.. Option B 12/yr 4 yrs 30mil Guarentee out if 48mil plus divert some of that money… Iff he says no to both they tag him and it will just be 1 yr 8mil plus his last yr in GB bc doubt they tag him again and work on resigning him.. They also have to look at Adams and Alexander who contracts are the next big ones comin up in a few yrs and Alexander will cost top tier at his position… Another option is Tagging Jones And trading him for a 2nd rounder.. Williams has a lessor medical history as Jones plus Williams will cost anywhere btw 4-6/yr plus you can roll with AJ Dillion more next yr thats probably the safer route to be honest use that money saved on LBs and DL help..

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