The Green Bay Packers made a statement with their signing of running back Aaron Jones to a 4-year, $48 million contract on March 14th, 2021. Jones’ return to Green Bay was met with mixed reactions from NFL fans and analysts, with some celebrating the re-acquisition of one of the top running backs in the league and others questioning the wisdom of investing so much money in a position that has become increasingly devalued in recent years. The last time a Super Bowl-winning team had a running back in the top three of their offenses cap hit was almost 10 years ago with Marshawn Lynch and the Legion of Boom era Seahawks, with the important caveat that Russell Wilson was on his rookie contract at the time. By resigning Jones to a contract that pays him an average of $12 million per year, the Packers bucked the trend of many NFL teams using a committee approach for their running game and investing more in positions like quarterback and wide receiver. Jones is a talented player, but his performance nor his statistics has improved over the past two years. He had 2 rushing touchdowns (5 via pass) in 2022 and was among the league leaders in fumbles.
The fallout of the Jones deal resulted in missed opportunities for free agents and the loss of in-house players who moved on to better opportunities. The Green Bay Packers heavy investment in Jones left them vulnerable at other positions, most notably the wide receiver department. The 2020 Packers were a powerhouse, finishing 13-3 and narrowly losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers due to shortcomings on defense. However, as a result of the money spent on Jones’s contract, leading receivers Devante Adams and Marques Valdes-Scantling, as well as Allen Lazard, are no longer with the team heading into 2023. With MVS being the leading receiver in the AFC Championship with the Kansas City Chiefs and Devante Adams continuing his stance as the most skilled receiver in the game in Las Vegas, it’s obvious that it has hurt the Packers.
The Wrong Approach to Building a Super Bowl Team
The Green Bay Packers took the wrong approach to build a Super Bowl team by investing so heavily in Jones. While their consistent deep playoff runs justify their efforts, their strategy of having an elite QB/WR/RB trio was not proven to be successful in recent years. The last few Super Bowl winners and conference champions have trended towards having two elite pass-catchers to complement a standout quarterback. For example, Rams’ Kupp/OBJ, Chiefs’ Hill/Kelce, Bengals’ Chase/Higgins/Boyd, Tampa Bay’s Evans/Godwin, and even in the Superbowl hopeful Eagles AJ Brown and Devonte Smith. The Eagles did the opposite of the Packers in the sense that they avoided paying big money to a running back and making the aggressive move to trade for superstar receiver AJ Brown during the 2022 draft.
The Guys Behind Aaron Jones
The Green Bay Packers would not have been left short in the running back department if they had moved on from Jones. Jamaal Williams, a former Green Bay player, had a standout season with the Detroit Lions in 2022, leading the league in rushing touchdowns. Packers felt 153 yards of his production in two games that tallied to his 1,066 on the season, including the crushing 20-16 season-finale loss to Williams’ Lions that kicked the Packers out of playoff contention where Williams put on two touchdowns himself to spite his former team. AJ Dillon, the 24-year-old Boston College standout, is a great compliment to Jones, with his skills filling in the gaps of Jones’s game ’Quadzilla’ has shown expertise in pounding through the ground game and picking up the load in the short yardage and goal-line situations. There is nothing that would hint that the young RB would not flourish with a higher snap count.
In essence, the re-signing of Aaron Jones to a 4-year contract worth $48 million with the Green Bay Packers was a move that raises serious concerns about the conversation of value of the running back position in today’s NFL and the wisdom of investing so much money in a runningback. The Packers were left vulnerable at wide receiver and did not have the money or ability to upgrade or add depth when needed. While Aaron Jones is undoubtedly a talented player, albeit top 10 in the position, the signing of Jones’ contract marked the end of the Packers’ super bowl window.