Packers fans need to temper their enthusiasm about re-signing Aaron Jones. The deal is going to come back to haunt Green Bay in the future.
Conventional NFL wisdom believed that Aaron Jones’ free agent price tag meant he was leaving Green Bay this offseason. Instead, the talented running back and the Packers found common ground on a long-term extension. Brian Gutekunst and his front office should have stuck to their original plan.
On the surface, the idea of paying a productive back like Jones $48 million over the next four years seems like a reasonable investment for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations in 2021. Any team employing Aaron Rodgers at quarterback should be engaged in an offseason policy designed to “win now.”
The notion that Jones took less money to stay in Green Bay also helps the team win the figurative press conference. Comments to that effect by Jones’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, should be taken with a large grain of salt. It’s a nice idea that will further endear Jones to Packers’ fans, but it won’t mean anything once the 2021 regular season kicks off.
Packers: Aaron Jones contract comes with risk
The minute Week 1 kicks off the Packers are going to realize they’ve made a front office mistake. Jones is one of the best running backs in the NFL, but paying him so much money is going to hamstring Green Bay when it comes to filling their other offseason holes.
The smarter course of action for the Packers to take would be to trust second-year pro A.J. Dillon to give their offense 80 percent of Jones’ production for a fraction of the salary cap cost. Green Bay could have easily found a third-down back via either free agency or the draft to round out their backfield heading into 2021. It’s a better group with Jones in the fold, but the upgrade isn’t worth the cost.
The money spent on Jones to return to the starting running back position could have also been better deployed somewhere else on the field. It’s possible the $12 million average annual value of the deal would have been enough to bring back center Corey Linsley. It’s unclear how Green Bay plans to replace their All-Pro offensive lineman. Jones is going to face a much tougher task running the ball up the middle without the holes Linsley produced for him in recent seasons.
The money in Jones’ contract could have also gone a long way towards solving the team’s wide receiver issues. Davante Adams can’t thrive on the outside forever without any support. The Packers may finally decide to fill that need via April’s draft, but the depth of wideouts in this year’s free agent class could have allowed them to focus on taking the best player available instead.
The odds favor Jones continuing to be a productive back for Green Bay for the foreseeable future, but the franchise is going to pay for its inefficient roster construction. Paying big money to running backs just doesn’t pay off in the modern NFL.