Aaron Jones has been a bright spot on the Packers roster since he came into the league in 2017. He’s a dual-threat running back that has become a fan-favorite player over the years. Jones has been a part of several important moments in Packer history and has certainly solidified himself as an all-time great for the organization. You really just can’t hate the guy, but his time in Green Bay needs to come to an end.
The main problem with Jones is his absurd contract. When it was first signed, it made sense because of the championship window that we were in. The contract was super backloaded and gave the Packers cap wiggle room while also retaining their stud running back. Now that the championship window has closed, his contract seems redundant. The Packers need to retool and move the team in a different direction from the Rodgers era. He only has two years left on his deal and has a cap hit of $20,020,000. Cutting or trading him pre-June 1st will save $10,440,000 in cap space while also incurring $9,580,000 in dead cap all in 2023. A post-June 1st cut or trade would net us $16,000,000 in cap space while also spreading out his dead cap over 2023 and 2024. Clearly, the post-June 1st move would make the most sense, considering the Packers are $13,000,000 above the record-setting salary cap, and moving him would give us room to breathe.
Aaron Jones came off of a pretty solid 2022 season with 1516 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns. His explosiveness saved the Packers in some games, and his impact on the field was felt in most games. However, he did sport a horrible 5 fumbles this year which is a career-high for him. Jones has been such a pivotal player for Green Bay, but there have been several games in his career where he just seems to vanish. I understand the games where he only gets 8 carries because LaFleur decides to throw the ball 50 times a game, but there were 3 main games where Jones’s presence was not felt. Those games are Week 3 in Tampa, Week 11 against Tennessee, and Week 18 against Detroit. The Packers did win in Tampa, no thanks to the offense, but Jones struggled severely, only boasting 47 yards of scrimmage on 15 touches and a fumble. The Titans game was one of the most important if the Packers could’ve pulled out a win, and Aaron Jones was nowhere to be found with 18 touches for 60 yards of scrimmage with another fumble. Our final game was a win and you’re in game for us against the Lions, and yet he had no production with 68 yards on 15 touches and a fumble. For a guy that’s a backbone of our team, he cannot just up and disappear in crucial games for us.
The Packers future is up in the air right now with Aaron Rodgers doing his yearly theatrics, and it’s time to start looking at players like Jones and their futures with the team. Since 2009, Super Bowl-winning teams have never had a running back exceed a salary of $2,500,000. The running back position is the most replaceable spot on the football field and replacing Jones would not be that hard. This draft class has a ton of hidden talents or straight-up studs at the running back position and we already have AJ Dillon in the backfield as well. Dillon is a mini Derrick Henry and has improved his game since coming into the league. We can ride the coattails of Dillon while also drafting guys like Deuce Vaughn, Mohammed Ibrahim, Tank Bigsby, or Tajae Spears. They’re all really solid backs with promising upside, that won’t require a first through third-round choice. We found Aaron Jones in the 4th, maybe we can recreate that success again in this draft class. It’s time the Packers genuinely go all in on their future instead of lingering in a half-in-half-out stage that they’ve been in since LaFleur has gotten here.
Aaron Jones has solidified himself as an all-time great for the Packers not only as a player but in terms of community engagement. He had his beautiful moment carrying his Dad’s ashes every game, and he has interacted with the fans more than most players ever will. His release or trade this off-season would crush the fan base as a whole. It needs to happen though, and the fans being upset would only be a byproduct of nostalgia in a sense. At the end of the day, the team’s needs come first and Jones truly doesn’t seem like he needs to be here if the Packers move on from Rodgers. Obviously, this whole debate relies on whether or not the Rodgers era is over or not, but still, his contract is too detrimental to the team’s salary cap for him to be kept around. A pay cut could be a possibility but seems unlikely looking at the history of his agent. Overall, I feel that most Packer fans, myself included, would be ecstatic to keep him but his cap hit is just too hard to justify for a running back.