New year, new teams. With the new league year quickly approaching, the deadline for NFL teams to use the franchise tag on a player passed at 4pm this Tuesday. While many teams used the tag to bind a player to their franchise for another year, the Green Bay Packers did not. Star running back Aaron Jones, a prime candidate for the tag, will enter the new league year as a free agent.
The Packers and Jones have been in talks over the last year, and, while Jones recieved no tag, both sides would still like to come to an agreement, per Adam Schefter.
Discussing running back contracts is a good way to get a headache at the best of times, but with the Packers’ cap situation, the margin for error is much more narrow.
The Packers have bigger needs than running backs. While the Packers could lose both Jones and draftmate Jamaal Williams this offseason, the team prepared by taking A.J. Dillon in the second round of last year’s draft. Dillon looked impressive in the final quarter of 2020 and would likely be joined by a draft pick later this spring.
The Packers could also dip their toes in the free-agent market. With the shrinking cap and the plethora of running backs in the league, there could likely be someone in their price range. Seahawks’ running back Chris Carson, who was also not tagged this week, has been a popular name for Green Bay. PFF’s Seth Galina views Green Bay and Carson as a prime off-season pairing.
Yet Jones is a centerpiece of the beautiful Green Bay offense. After leading the NFL in touchdowns in 2019, Jones followed up with 1104 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground and 335 yards and two TDs through the air in 2020. Many of the Packers’ strongest wins in 2020 literally came on the back of some big Aaron Jones runs.
Moreover, Jones is the ideal Packer as a person. He’s well-loved by his teammates, fans, and the media and has a strong sense of character. Jones is the type of player you’d want to root for and hope he can have a long career in Green Bay.
But the NFL is ultimately a business. NFL careers are short and tumultuous. Jones worked his way up from a late-round pick to an NFL star. Jones has earned the right to a big payday. It’s just unfortunate Green Bay can’t be the team to give him one.
Yet as stated above, the team still wants to get a deal done. Ideally, Russ Ball can do some sorcery, and Jones would be willing to sign for less than what he could make with the Dolphins or Jets. The chances don’t seem great, but crazier things have happened.
The next few weeks will determine a lot in terms of the Packers’ positional needs. With Jones officially entering the free market, running back may be one of them.
Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.
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