Aaron Jones

Packers Could Shake Up RB Depth Chart Next Offseason

The Packers had one of the best RB tandems in the NFL last season, and they’ll roll with the same duo in 2022. However, that might be the last season we’ll see the two-headed monster in Green Bay. Matt Schneidman of The Athletic writes that the Packers could move on from one of Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon next offseason.

This isn’t a huge surprise if you look at Green Bay’s cap sheet. Dillon will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023, and if he can match his breakout sophomore numbers (1,116 yards from scrimmage, seven touchdowns), then he’ll surely be pushing for an extension. Considering the Packers invested a second-round pick in Dillon, they’d presumably be willing to oblige.

However, it was only a year ago that the Packers inked Jones to a four-year, $48MM extension. That $12MM AAV ranks seventh at the position, and Green Bay could save themselves $10MM by cutting the veteran running back. It’d make sense for Green Bay to pivot that cap hit to the younger Dillon.

Following 2019 and 2020 campaigns where Jones combined for more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage while finding the end zone 30 times, the Packers pretty much split the RB carries evenly between Jones and Dillon in 2021. The move worked out for Green Bay, as they got 2,306 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns from the duo.

“I think they feed off each other pretty well,” running backs coach Ben Sirmans said (via Schneidman). “It’s kind of a luxury because you can keep them both fresh throughout the game and then toward the end, you can either throw AJ in there to pound and wear the defense down or put Aaron in and all of a sudden the defense is worn down and it’s an explosive play. Having a blend of both those guys, that will continue throughout this upcoming season.”

If the Packers do move on from one of the two RBs next offseason, the other running backs on the Packers roster could parlay a solid 2022 campaign into a bigger role in 2023. Patrick Taylor and Kylin Hill are still around, although the latter could start the season on PUP. Green Bay also brought in a pair of undrafted free agent RBs in Tyler Goodson and BJ Baylor.

Packers Restructure Aaron Jones’ Contract

The Packers have taken another step towards cap compliance. As first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates and confirmed by Tom Silverstein of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter), the team has converted $3.75MM of the money owed to Aaron Jones in 2022 into a signing bonus, while tacking on two void years to his deal. 

[Related: Packers Rework Kenny Clark’s Deal]

The move creates just over $3MM in cap space for Green Bay, bringing the total number of savings the team has manufactured in the past two days to roughly $14MM. There is still plenty of work to be done, though, to get under the cap in time for the beginning of the new league year in March. It was reported yesterday that edge rusher Za’Darius Smith will not be brought back at his currently-scheduled cap hit of $27.7MM.

Jones, 27, signed a four-year, $48MM extension last March to keep him in Green Bay through the prime of his career. He was coming off of his first Pro Bowl nomination, following a third season averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and a second straight scoring double-digit touchdowns. In his first year on the new deal, he recorded 1,190 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns.

Things won’t get easier for the Packers down the road when it comes to Jones and his contract. His cap hits are set to jump up to $19.25MM and $15.25MM in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Between that, and the commitments which would be required if the team is able to keep both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams this season and beyond, the Packers will likely be facing cap gymnastics for years to come.

Packers’ Aaron Jones To Miss Time

The Packers got some relatively good news on Monday morning. Following an MRI, running back Aaron Jones has been diagnosed with a mild MCL sprain (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Jones is expected to be out for just 1-2 weeks, so the Packers won’t be placing him on injured reserve at this time. 

Jones was forced out in the third quarter yesterday after a tackle from Seahawks defender Bobby Wagner. At first, Jones tried to limp off of the field, but he ultimately had to be helped off to the sideline. It was a scary scene, but it turns out that the injury is not nearly as bad as it looked.

Without Jones, the Packers turned to A.J. Dillon, who finished out with 21 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Dillon will likely get the call again vs. the Vikings next week; he may also be the primary ball-carrier against the Rams in Week 12. Fortunately for the Packers, they have a Week 13 bye, giving Jones ample time to rest up for the final stretch.

Jones has been here before — MCL injuries also cost him time in 2017 and 2018. Since then, he’s turned in some of his best work. Between 2019 and 2020, Jones averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs, positioning him as one of the best running backs in the NFL. After that, the Packers gladly re-upped him with a four-year, $48MM deal, tying him to the club through 2024.

NFC North Notes: Gurley, Lions, Packers

The Lions have shown some interest in signing two-time All-Pro running back Todd Gurley. It’s not clear if he’s still on the radar after their meeting last week, but Georgia alum D’Andre Swift would be happy to welcome him to Detroit’s backfield.

Knowledge. Experience,” Swift said when asked how he would benefit from playing with Gurley (via USA Today). “I’d be happy if he come here as well. I just want to compete with these guys. Just to have him in the building, that’d be good.”

Aside from their college connection, Gurley also has familiarity with the Lions’ new GM. Gurley’s best years in L.A. overlapped with Brad Holmes‘ Rams tenure, including 2,500+ rushing yards between 2017 and 2018. He’s been slowed by knee trouble ever since, but he could be an interesting partner for Swift now that Kerryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson are out of the picture.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari is ahead of schedule as he returns from last year’s season-ending ACL tear (via Matt Schneidman of The Athletic). “He’s really working hard. I think he came back and he’s in excellent shape. We’re just going to take it one day at a time,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think he’s a little bit ahead of schedule but then again there’s a long way to the start of the season. We’ll see where he’s at when it comes to that time.” Pro Football Focus ranked Bakhtiari as the league’s No. 2 tackle last year before his December injury. So, regardless of which quarterback he’s protecting, the Packers are counting on his presence.
  • Speaking of which, Packers running back Aaron Jones says he didn’t chat with Aaron Rodgers about the QB’s plans before inking his extension (Twitter link via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette). “This is home,” Jones said. “This is where I love to be.”

Contract Details: Trubisky, Andrews, Carson, Jones, Reiff, Joyner

Let’s catch up on the latest contract details from around the league:

  • QB Mitchell TrubiskyBills: One-year, $2MM base salary with $1.5MM guaranteed, $500K signing bonus, and $2MM available in incentives. Via Field Yates of ESPN on Twitter.
  • C David Andrews, Patriots: Four-years, $19 MM, with $6.5MM fully guaranteed. More money available in play-time incentives. Via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network on Twitter.
  • RB Chris CarsonSeahawks: Two-years, $10.425MM, $4.5MM signing bonus and $1MM guaranteed salary for 2021. $4.5MM non-guaranteed 2022 salary and $450K in per-game roster bonuses in ‘22. Up to $1.4MM in incentives in both years. Via Dan Graziano of ESPN on Twitter.
  • RB Aaron JonesPackers: Four-years, $48MM. The $13MM signing bonus is the only fully guaranteed money in the contract. A $3.5MM roster bonus is due on the first day of next league year. For 2023, a $7MM roster bonus is due on the third day of the league year. You can read the full breakdown of each year of the contract via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
  • OL Riley ReiffBengals: One-year, $7.5MM. $5.5MM guaranteed. We hadn’t known the terms of this contract yet, and $7.5MM is a pretty decent price for the Bengals for a solid starting tackle. Via Yates on Twitter.
  • S Lamarcus JoynerJets: One-year, up to $4.5MM. $2.5MM is guaranteed, with a $1MM signing bonus and $1.5MM base salary. Up to $500K in per game active roster bonuses and $1.5MM in playing time and interception incentives. Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter.

NFL Contract Details: Jones, Floyd, Williams, QBs

Some assorted contract details from around the NFL:

  • RB Aaron Jones, Packers: Four years, $48MM, including $20MM over first two years. $7MM roster bonus in 2023. Owed $16MM in 2023 and $12MM in 2024. Via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
  • LB Leonard Floyd, Rams: Four years, $64MM, including $32.5MM guaranteed. $14MM signing bonus. Salaries: $2MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $16.5MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $15.5MM (2023), $16MM (2024). Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • DE Leonard Williams, Giants: Three years, $63MM, including $45MM. $22.5MM signing bonus. Salaries: $3.5MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $19MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $18MM (2023). Cap charges: $11MM (2021), $26.5MM (2022), $25.5MM (2023). Via Manish Mehta on Twitter.
  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington: One year, $10MM, including $6MM guaranteed. Max value of $12MM. $6MM signing bonus. $3MM base salary, $1MM per-game roster bonuses. Up to $2MM in incentives. Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post on Twitter.
  • QB Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins: One year, $5MM, including $2.5MM guaranteed. $2.5MM signing bonus, up to $2.5MM in incentives. Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • QB Andy Dalton, Bears: One year, $10MM. $7MM signing bonus, $3MM base salary, up to $3MM in incentives. Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter.
  • LB Carl Lawson, Jets: Three years, $45MM, including $30MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. Salaries: $6.2MM (2021, plus $7.8MM roster bonus), $15MM (2022), $15MM (2023). Cap charges: $14.3MM (2021), $15.3MM (2022), $15.3MM (2023). Up to $800K in sack incentives each year. Via Mehta on Twitter.

Packers Re-Sign Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones is off the board. On Sunday, the Packers agreed to a four-year, $48MM deal with their star running back (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The deal ties Jones to Green Bay through the 2024 season and comes with a $13MM signing bonus. 

[RELATED: Packers Rework P. Smith’s Contract]

Jones could have gone into free agency without any restrictions and cashed in big. However, the current climate left a lot of uncertainty. With this deal, Jones and agent Drew Rosenhaus have opted for security over upside, though Jones has plenty of dollars coming his way.

The franchise tag would have given Jones around $9MM. Instead, he’s getting an average of $12MM/year with more guaranteed money than he was offered in last year’s round of talks. It took a little longer, but Jones got his big pay day just like 2017 running back draftees Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon. Before the deal, the Dolphins were heavily connected to Jones. Now, they’ll have to look elsewhere for help.

Jones has averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs over the past two seasons, positioning him as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Historically, teams have been reluctant to shell out big bucks and guaranteed years to RBs, but Jones has proven his value multiple times over.

In three of his four NFL campaigns, Jones has averaged 5.5 yards per carry. While he missed the Pro Bowl in 2019, he led the NFL with 19 touchdowns. There was no oversight last year as Jones turned in his second straight 1,000-yard season. He averaged a career-high 78.4 yards per game in 2020 and the Packers will be counting on more of the same in 2021, especially with Jamaal Williams on track for the open market.

Packers, Aaron Jones Still In Talks

By not using their franchise tag on Aaron Jones, the Packers run the risk of losing their top running back next week in free agency. But the team has not given up on extending him prior to the start of the new league year, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Packers discussed the prospect of tagging Jones and continue to view him as part of their future, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Green Bay, which has not used the tag since 2010, is running out of time to salvage that future.

While the running back tag is not yet known, it could come in below even $9MM — thanks to the expected cap reduction — so it is somewhat surprising the Packers did not cuff Jones via the tag. Corey Linsley is expected to hit the market, so the team faces the real possibility of losing an All-Pro center and a Pro Bowl running back next week.

Jones’ negotiations with the Packers led to the running back changing agents. The 2020 talks produced an offer worth $12MM annually, but Green Bay’s proposal was light on guaranteed money. While 2017 running back draftees Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon opted for security ahead of free agency, Jones should enter a live market if he reaches free agency. The Dolphins are one known suitor for the two-time 1,000-yard rusher. With Jones the unquestioned No. 1 running back in free agency, it would take a lot for the Packers to keep him off the market at this point.

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.

Could Packers Franchise RB Aaron Jones?

We heard earlier today that the Dolphins and Packers running back Aaron Jones, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March, are interested in joining forces. But Green Bay might not let Jones get away.

The Packers and Jones have been negotiating a long-term pact for about a year now, but it doesn’t sound as though the two sides are particularly close to an agreement. The club did offer Jones a contract that would have paid him like a top-five RB in terms of average annual value, but the offer was unappealing to Jones because it was lacking in significant guaranteed cash.

Nonetheless, the club is expected to bid adieu to RB2 Jamaal Williams, and given Williams’ impending departure and Jones’ importance to Green Bay’s offense, Jones might be a franchise tag candidate. Indeed, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network suggests that because this year’s franchise tag value for running backs is so low ($8MM), the Packers may be willing to carry that cost on their books if it means keeping Jones in the fold for at least one more year (video link).

Jones, an explosive playmaker as a runner and receiver who has averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs over the past two seasons, would certainly not be happy about a franchise tag. But while the Packers still have work to do just to get under the cap, to say nothing of a potential re-up for center Corey Linsley, they have to at least give the matter some serious thought.