Jaire Alexander

Packers Expect To Retain Aaron Jones, Not Considering Jaire Alexander Trade

The 2023 offseason involved multiple teams moving pricey running back contracts off their payroll, while others — the Packers included — reached pay-cut agreements with veteran starters. Aaron Jones‘ contract runs through 2024 and sees its cap number increase significantly, seemingly putting the accomplished back on unstable ground.

GM Brian Gutekunst may be putting a stop to talk of Jones leaving Green Bay, however, indicating (via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman) the Packers “absolutely” expect their starting running back to be on the 2024 roster. Jones has been with the Packers since 2017. Of the deep 2017 RB draft class, only he, Alvin Kamara and Joe Mixon remain with the teams that selected them.

Jones agreed to take a $5MM pay cut last February, with that deal adding an $8.52MM signing bonus. The restructure added void years to the veteran back’s deal and trimmed his 2023 cap figure to $8.2MM. The cap hit spikes to $17MM in 2024, potentially pointing to another Packers move to address their top RB’s deal.

He was such a difference-maker when he was out there this year, the way our offense was able to move,” Gutekunst said. “He changed a lot of the way we operated when he was in there and when he was healthy. He’s just really the heartbeat of our team.”

A Jones extension would make sense, as the void years on the current deal would bring a $6.6MM dead-money hit if he is not re-signed before the 2025 league year. Though, teams are no longer making a habit of reupping backs in their late 20s. The Packers gave Jones a four-year, $48MM deal just before free agency in 2021, changing course after several years of not paying running backs. The NFL largely opted to squeeze RBs last year, bringing another value drop for a position long past its prestige peak.

Jones, 29, missed time this season due to MCL and hamstring issues. These injuries caused the seven-year veteran to miss six games. But the UTEP alum proved effective when available, finishing the season surging. Returning to action in Week 14, the former fifth-round pick closed the season with five consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. This counted two in the playoffs, springing the Packers past the Cowboys and nearly upsetting the No. 1-seeded 49ers six days later. Jones’ veteran presence certainly helped a Packer team reliant on nothing but first- or second-year pass catchers.

AJ Dillon is coming off a sluggish contract year, being set to hit free agency at a bad time — as a crowded RB market is set to form. Jones being released — a move that would come with $12MM in dead money without a post-June 1 designation — would send him to a market that could well house Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Tony Pollard and D’Andre Swift. Dillon is unlikely to secure a lucrative deal on this market. The Packers losing Jones would also create a major need, albeit at a position that is among the easiest to fill.

Additionally, Gutekunst made an effort to cool down Jaire Alexander trade rumors. The longtime Packers GM said, via Schneidman, no consideration is being given to trading Alexander. Following Alexander’s coin-toss fiasco that led to a one-game suspension, a report injected doubt about the highly paid cornerback’s Wisconsin future. The Packers owe Alexander an $8MM roster bonus on March 20.

The Packers gave Alexander a four-year, $84MM extension — one that remains the NFL’s high-water AAV mark for corners — in 2022 but have seen the former first-round pick miss extensive time due to injuries over the past three seasons. After a shoulder malady cost Alexander most of the 2021 season, he missed 10 games this year. That and the costly contract dent Alexander’s trade value. That said, Pro Football Focus rated the six-year veteran in the top 25 at the position this season.

Packers Could Part Ways With CB Jaire Alexander

Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander may have just one more game with Green Bay. The two-time Pro Bowler has been suspended for the club’s Week 17 game against the Vikings, and while he is expected to return for the regular season finale, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com makes it clear that Alexander may not be in the Packers’ long-term plans.

According to Schefter, Green Bay’s decision on whether to retain Alexander will hinge on the $8MM roster bonus that he is due on March 20. If the team decides to keep Alexander in the fold, it will simply pay out the bonus and move on. However, Schefter reports that the Packers could explore a trade or even a release before the bonus comes due.

Alexander signed a four-year, $84MM extension in May 2022, a deal that made him the highest-paid corner in NFL history in terms of average annual value (though his $30MM in full guarantees only ranked 12th among his cornerback peers). The Louisville product did nothing to make the team regret its decision in the first year of his new contract, as he earned his second Pro Bowl nod, intercepted a career-best five passes, and earned a stellar 80.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2022.

Unfortunately, 2023 has not been as kind to Alexander. He has missed nine games due to injury this season, and in his return after a six-game absence last week, he unexpectedly joined the designated captains for the coin toss — despite not being chosen as a captain — and called out “tails.” Though he won the toss, he made a critical error by saying that the Packers wished to start the game on defense, which is not the same as deferring to the second half. In other words, the Panthers nearly started both halves with the ball, and would have done so if head coach Matt LaFleur had not communicated his intentions to referee Alex Kemp prior to the game, and if Kemp had not clarified Alexander’s decision.

Alexander also expressed no remorse for the gaffe, instead implying that it was “only suiting” for him to join the captains since the game was in Charlotte and since he is a Charlotte native (a fact that he believed LaFleur was unaware of). Schefter adds that the Packers, who prefer their players to participate in their offseason program in Green Bay, do not like the fact that Alexander does not do so; indeed, Alexander forfeited a $700K workout bonus in the spring so that he could train in Florida instead.

Despite that, Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) hears that Alexander is not considered a “problem child” within the organization. Although the injuries are a concern — Alexander also missed all but four games of the 2021 campaign — his abilities, age (he will turn 27 in February) and the fact that a trade or release would create a significant dead money charge would seem to indicate that he will be back in Green Bay in 2024. However, Russini, like Schefter, believes that a parting of the ways is a real possibility.

Packers Suspend CB Jaire Alexander

Jaire Alexander has missed an extended stretch for the Packers this season, but the sixth-year cornerback is now healthy. He will not be available for Green Bay’s Week 17 game, however, due to a team-imposed suspension.

The Packers suspended Alexander for one game for conduct detrimental to the team, GM Brian Gutekunst said Wednesday. This is believed to be for Alexander’s strange coin-toss moment in Carolina, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Not a captain, Alexander crashed the Packers’ coin toss and forgot to use the word “defer.” Had the referee not assisted the Packers, they could have been forced to kick off in both halves against the Panthers.

Week 16 marked Alexander’s first game back from a shoulder injury. The highly paid cornerback had not played since Week 8. While Alexander obviously resides as an important piece for the Packers — on a defense that has struggled under third-year DC Joe Barry — the team will attempt to set an example with this one-game ban.

The decision to suspend a player is never easy and not one we take lightly. Unfortunately, Jaire’s actions prior to the game in Carolina led us to take this step,” Gutekunst said. “As an organization, we have an expectation that everyone puts the team first. While we are disappointed, we had a good conversation with Jaire this morning and fully expect him to learn from this as we move forward together.”

A Charlotte native, Alexander called the toss despite not being designated to be part of that process with the captains. This strange sequence came in a game the Packers barely won against a two-win opponent. Alexander, 26, has missed nine games this season. While it is not quite the lost year his 2021 became due to injury, it is pretty close. The Packers have Alexander on a four-year, $84MM extension that runs through 2026. That $21MM AAV remains the most among corners.

Packers CB Eric Stokes Not Likely To Start

When former Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes was drafted 29th overall in 2021 by the Packers, he was immediately thrust into action as a rookie starter. He performed well as an injury replacement for Jaire Alexander and, at times, Rasul Douglas, but with both returning to form and healthy, Stokes may be coming off the bench for the first time in his career, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic.

Stokes started 14 games during that rookie season when Alexander and Douglas missed a combined 18 games. He graded out well in coverage, recording an interception and 14 passes defensed and did well enough as a rookie to slot himself in as a starter over Douglas on the depth chart to begin his sophomore season. Unfortunately, after struggling through a bit of a sophomore slump, the decision was made for the coaches as an ankle injury forced Stokes to miss the final eight games of the season.

Now Alexander and Douglas are fully healthy and are both coming off strong seasons. Alexander continues to be one of the NFL’s top defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), rebounding from his major injury in 2021 to grade out as the 8th best cornerback in the league. Douglas ran with the opportunity to start in place of Stokes on the outside and delivered a performance that graded him out as the 30th best cornerback in the league, according to PFF.

Schneidman also points out that cornerback and return specialist Keisean Nixon excelled down the stretch last season in the slot for Green Bay, likely solidifying his as the starting nickelback for 2023. He started four games for the Packers, with three coming consecutively late in the year.

So, after a down second season that saw him grade out as the 105th graded cornerback by PFF, it looks like Stokes will be coming off the bench to fill in for Alexander, Douglas, and Nixon in his return from last year’s season-ending injury. He may not be starting, but he’d be smart to stay ready. Although Alexander and Douglas both appeared in nearly every game last year (Alexander missed one), neither are far removed from injuries, and with Nixon’s heavy involvement on special teams, Stokes should earn ample time rotating in.

Packers Rumors: Rodgers, Love, Lazard

We are now 10 days away from the start of the 2023 league year, and there is still no clarity on the Aaron Rodgers situation. In February, a report surfaced indicating that the Packers’ entire power structure is “done with Rodgers” and ready to turn the QB reins over to Jordan Love, while a subsequent report suggested that Green Bay would be amenable to a Rodgers return if the 10-time Pro Bowler is “fully bought in.”

Rodgers’ “darkness retreat,” in which he spent a few days in isolation to consider his future, concluded sometime in the middle of February, but at the end of the month, GM Brian Gutekunst said that he had not yet spoken with Rodgers aside from a few text messages (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). And, as Demovsky noted, Gutekunst was noncommittal when asked who his 2023 QB1 will be, which is notable in light of his unequivocally stating in December that he wanted Rodgers back and then deferring to Rodgers’ four MVP honors when asked in January which of his top two passers gives the club the best chance to win.

As of now, the beginning of free agency on March 15 remains the soft deadline for Rodgers to make a decision as to whether he wants to retire, return to the Packers, or be traded, though Gutekunst is still not pushing the franchise icon to clarify his intentions.

Now for more from Titletown:

  • In the same piece linked above, Gutekunst is quoted as saying that he has not had any specific trade talks concerning Rodgers. We did hear last month that the Jets had “inquired” on Rodgers’ availability, though technically speaking, such an inquiry may not qualify as “trade talks” if actual compensation was not discussed.
  • Also in Demovsky’s piece, Gutekunst reiterated his belief that Love is ready to be a starting quarterback, and as Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com (subscription required) writes, many current Packers players believe the same, just as the team knew Rodgers was ready to take up the mantle from Brett Favre in 2008. All of the Rodgers-related reports that have surfaced in 2023 lend credence to the notion that, while Green Bay may be open to one more year with Rodgers at the helm, it may actually prefer to trade him and begin life with Love.
  • Moving away from the Packers’ quarterbacks room, free agent-to-be WR Allen Lazard told SiriusXM NFL Radio last month that his agent has had some discussions with team brass about a new contract, but at this point, it sounds as if Lazard will have a chance to test his luck on the open market (audio link). With Davante Adams no longer in the picture, Lazard became more of a focal point of the Green Bay offense in 2022, setting career bests in targets (100), receptions (60), and yards (788). His 60% reception rate was a career low, though Rodgers has said, if he returns to the Packers in 2023, he would want the team to re-sign Lazard.
  • Another of Rodgers’ favorite targets, WR Randall Cobb, recently underwent ankle surgery, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Cobb, 32, is out of contract, though if he chooses to play in 2023, he will be able to do so without pain.
  • The Packers recently restructured the contracts of a few high-profile players for salary cap purposes. Per Rapoport, cornerback Jaire Alexander and edge defender Preston Smith both agreed to reworked deals that will open up a little more than $16MM of cap space (Twitter link). Demovsky passes along some details (Twitter links), pointing out that the team added a void year (2027) to the back end of both contracts.
  • Likewise, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the Packers converted roughly $13.8MM of DT Kenny Clark‘s 2023 pay into a signing bonus, thereby opening up a little over $11MM in cap room. Demovsky again offers a complete breakdown of the restructure (via Twitter).

Latest On Packers’ Secondary

The strength of the Packers’ re-tooled defense figures to be its secondary. While depth could be a question mark, the starting unit features a number of former first-rounders and effective veterans. Which five players are in line to see the field full-time isn’t a concern heading into training camp, but how they are aligned could be. 

As detailed by The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman (subscription required), Green Bay is set to use Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas as their top three corners. The latter enjoyed a late-blossoming breakout campaign last season, recording a career-high five interceptions. That performance earned him a three-year, $21MM contract in free agency.

The group will still be led, of course, by Alexander; the Pro Bowler became the league’s all-time highest-paid corner (in terms of AAV) when he signed an $84MM extension which will keep him in place through 2026. He and Stokes in particular figure to serve as a foundation on the backend for the foreseeable future, along with, in all likelihood, safety Darnell Savage Jr. 

An important question Schneidman raises is the matter of who mans the slot when each of the top five defenders (the aforementioned four players, along with safety Adrian Amos) are healthy. DBs coach Jerry Gray indicated that any of the starting corners or Savage could find themselves in the role. “There’s a lot of action at the nickel,” he said. “[A]nd everybody wants to be in the action.”

As Schneidman notes, different players would be better suited to shift inside at different points, depending on individual circumstances. Ultimately, though, the health of the secondary’s top five members will be the most important factor in the defense’s success, given the distinct lack of known commodities lower on the depth chart. How the unit shakes out at camp will be worth watching in the lead-up to what the Packers hope will be another Super Bowl run.

Contract Details: Alexander, Moreau

Here are the details on several recently-signed contracts:

  • Jaire Alexander, CB (Packers): Four years, $84MM. $30MM signing bonus (previously reported). Base salary of $1.076MM in 2022 creates manageable cap charge of $7.076MM. Base salaries remain modest in 2023-24 ($1.2MM and $6.65MM), but roster bonuses ($11.45MM due on third day of 2023 league year, $8MM due on third day of 2024 league year) are significant. Cap charge increases to $20MM in 2023. Base salaries increase to $16.15MM in 2025 and $18.15MM in 2026. Each year from 2023-26 includes weekly roster bonuses of up to $650K, workout bonuses of $700K, and $250K Pro Bowl escalator (Twitter thread via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).
  • Fabian Moreau, CB (Texans): One year, $2MM. $1MM guaranteed ($350K signing bonus, $650K of $1.4MM salary). Up to $250K in weekly roster bonuses. $500K in available incentives (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network).

NFC North Notes: Vikings Front Office Hire, Hundley, Jones, Alexander

New Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made a noteworthy addition to his staff earlier this week. The team announced the hiring of Demitrius Washington as their new vice president of football operations.

Washington had spent seven years with the 49ers, a stretch which overlapped with Adofo-Mensah’s time in that organization. For the past two seasons, Washington served as San Francisco’s director of research and development, the same title Adofo-Mensah held with the Browns prior to his hire. The pair will now reunite and, along with new head coach Kevin O’Connell, oversee the franchise’s transition from the previous Rick Spielman-Mike Zimmer regime.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC North, starting with one more from Minnesota:

  • The Vikings brought in veteran backup quarterback Brett Hundley as a tryout during rookie minicamp, but they made it clear they would not be signing him, as noted by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. The 28-year-old hasn’t made a regular season appearance since 2019, most recently spending time with the Colts. Minnesota’s QB room currently consists of Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Sean Mannion and Nate Stanley.
  • The Bears used one of their 11 picks in last month’s draft to add to its receiving corps, selecting Velus Jones in the third round. The team is high on his speed and versatility, leading to the new coaching staff having “big plans” for the 25-year-old. “Let’s start out at receiver and then let’s see what he can do, moving him around to different spots and getting him the ball, because he is an explosive athlete” head coach Matt Eberflus said, via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. After transferring from USC to Tennessee, Jones produced both on offense and special teams, recording 807 receiving yards and leading the SEC in both punt and kick return yardage in 2021.
  • An interesting note came out in the aftermath of Jaire Alexander‘s record-breaking extension with the Packers. USA Today’s Josina Anderson reports (on Twitter) that the Pro Bowler specifically wanted a four-year (rather than five-year) deal. He got just that, helping him to break the record briefly held by Denzel Ward for the highest annual average amongst cornerbacks at $21MM per season, and keeping him under contract through 2026.

Packers Finalizing Extension With Jaire Alexander

The Packers signed one of their stars to a massive extension earlier this offseason with Aaron Rodgers. They have done so again with cornerback Jaire Alexander. The team is extending him on a four-year, $84MM contract (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). 

As Schefter notes, the deal includes a $30MM signing bonus, which is a record for corners and will allow him to earn $31MM in 2022. Overall, the annual average of $21MM per year represents another high-mark at the position, and makes him the third CB to eclipse the $20MM-per-season plateau (along with Jalen Ramsey and Denzel Ward).

While those numbers are high, only Alexander’s signing bonus is guaranteed. Among cornerbacks, Alexander agreed to deal that slots him only 12th in terms of fully guaranteed money. That said, the Pro Bowl cornerback should be expected to be with the Packers for a while. His 2025 and ’26 base salaries, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, jump to $16.2MM and $18.2MM, respectively. Alexander’s deal also includes an $8MM roster bonus in 2024. This transaction continues the Packers’ pattern of not guaranteeing any money to a non-quarterback beyond the first year, Florio adds, noting only they and the Bengals still use this old-school method.

A first round pick in 2018, Alexander has been an immediate starter and anchor of the team’s secondary since his arrival. He was named a Pro Bowler for the first time in 2020, leading to increased optimism for this past season. The 25-year-old was limited to just four regular season games due to a shoulder injury, however. With the team having picked up his fifth-year option, it was already a guarantee he would be suiting up for Green Bay for at least the 2022 campaign.

The two sides began negotiations on a long-term extension this offseason, one which saw plenty of other notable moves being made by the team to try and stay competitive while remaining cap compliant. It came out not long after free agency began that the Louisville product was seeking a deal which would place him at the top of the CB market. This news confirms that he has accomplished that goal.

Schefter adds that Alexander’s cap number will be lowered in 2022 by virtue of his base salary being valued at just over $1MM. That will help the Packers absorb another record-breaking contract as they try to extend their Super Bowl window. Alexander will remain with the team through 2026 at the head of a secondary also featuring the likes of Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos.

NFC North Notes: Alexander, Bears, Lions

The Packers were unable to reach an extension agreement with Davante Adams, leading to a blockbuster trade following a franchise tag. Brian Gutekunst would prefer the Jaire Alexander process conclude before a potential Alexander tag comes into play. The fifth-year Packers GM said the team “would love” to extend Alexander this offseason, via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman (on Twitter). Gutekunst confirmed the Packers and Alexander are in talks, which became known earlier this month, and said the discussions could continue throughout the year. Alexander finds himself in an interesting position, coming off a season a shoulder injury mostly nullified. But the one-time Pro Bowler is still eyeing a top-market extension. Alexander figures to face a decision on playing out a contract year ahead of a potential tag or taking long-term security — at likely a slightly lower price — before the season.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Larry Ogunjobi was onboard with the Bears for fewer than five days, with the team nixing the defensive tackle’s deal due to a failed physical. New Bears GM Ryan Poles is open to agreeing to another contract with Ogunjobi, per ESPN.com’s Courney Cronin, who notes the failed physical stemmed from the former Browns and Bengals D-lineman’s surgically repaired right foot (Twitter link). Ogunjobi suffered a foot injury during the Bengals’ wild-card win. Poles noted the Bears’ deal with Ogunjobi prevented them from adding other free agents during the legal tampering period, per Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required).
  • Viewing Trevor Siemian as a better fit in the offense Luke Getsy is installing, Poles said (via Jahns) he hopes a Nick Foles trade emerges in the near future. But nothing is on the horizon, continuing this holding pattern for the former Super Bowl MVP. Foles is due a $4MM base salary in 2022, the final year of his contract. Foles has the Bears’ fourth-largest cap number ($10.7MM); a trade would let the Bears off the hook for Foles’ salary but still hand the team a $6MM-plus dead-money charge.
  • Although the Bears gutted their front seven by trading Khalil Mack, cutting Danny Trevathan and not re-signing Akiem Hicks, Poles said the team is not planning to move on from Robert Quinn. No Quinn trade scenario has come up, Poles said (via Jahns, on Twitter). Quinn’s $17.1MM cap figure is the largest on the Bears’ 2022 payroll. Despite going into his age-32 season, Quinn boosted his trade value last year by breaking Richard Dent‘s franchise single-season sack record.
  • Prior to Chandon Sullivan‘s Vikings agreement, the Packers made a late push to keep him, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. Sullivan spent the past three seasons with the Packers, who have a need at slot cornerback thanks to his defection to a division rival. The Broncos also pursued Sullivan but signed K’Waun Williams days before news of Sullivan’s Vikings agreement surfaced.
  • The Lions will primarily use a 4-3 defense next season, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Detroit started last season by changing to a 3-4 look, but Aaron Glenn‘s unit adjusted a bit down the stretch. Prior to last season, the Lions had used a 4-3 look for many years.