Ian Rapoport reportedly reported that Carolina is signing RB Christian McCaffrey to a four-year $64 million contract extension. McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft (Aaron Jones was # 182), had two years left on his rookie deal – the NFL has a special rule for Top 10 draft picks, namely a fifth-year team option equal to the salary of the league’s transition tender during the player’s fourth season.
Last season another star running back made similar news: the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (# 4 overall in 2016 draft) signed an extension. The circumstances were quite different, however. In April, the Cowboys had picked up the fifth-year option of Zeke’s contract. Elliott then began holding out during training camp, demanding an extension. Owner Jerry Jones indicated he wouldn’t bow to such tactics, but on September 4 the parties signed a 6-year extension worth $90 million ($15M per year), with $50M guaranteed. This will keep Elliott under contract through the 2026 season, by which time he’ll be 31 years old. I doubt that Elliott, with his huge ego will still be a Cowboy six years from now.
Dallas also inked Amari Cooper to a five-year extension just weeks ago. It’s reportedly a five-year, $100 million deal that keeps the four-time Pro Bowl receiver in Dallas through the 2024 season. Add in DE Demarcus Lawrence’s 5-year deal at an average of $21 million per year, and you’ve got roughly 40 percent of the team’s payroll going to four guys. Yes, I think Jerry Jones, at age 77, has finally lost it.
But back to Green Bay, Aaron Jones is about to begin his final year under his original 4-year contract. I’m a little confused about those contract terms, though it seems to have been structured to pay less than $650,000 in each of the first three years, but then $2.133 million this season. That’s still chicken feed compared to Jones’s current projected worth, which has been estimated by various experts to be from $11 to $14 million per year.
Money limitations aside, the crux of the issue is whether, going on four years now, the Packers truly and fairly value their star running back. To date, I’ve yet to see that they do. Coach McCarthy didn’t have a clue about Aaron’s abilities and value. Coach LaFleur has a much higher regard for him, though I still feel the team failed to reap the full benefits of Aaron’s talents last season.
It’s been reported that Jones and his agent are open to negotiating an extension. If this happens, he’ll be paid a handsome amount and with a sizable guarantee, though somewhat less annually than his projected value. I would think a 4-year extension, at $8 or $9 million annually, or three years at $10M, would be fair and doable. Jones will turn 26 in December.
Few TP readers need to be educated on the worth of Aaron Jones. Here’s a brief summary I did in February of Aaron’s exploits last season:
“Jones established the following career bests: most rushing yards in a season (1,084): most receiving yards in a season (474); most games played (all 16); most carries (236); most rushing TDs; most receiving TDs; most receptions (49); highest average yards per catch (9.7); longest reception (67 yards); and most TD receptions (3). Pro Football Focus rated Jones second best running back in the National Football Conference, ahead even of Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook.”
Aaron’s performance is still very much on an upward trajectory.
Not only does Jones deserve an extension, it’s a deal that needs to get done if the Packers are going to retain his services beyond 2020. If a deal is not consummated, and preferably during this preseason, I think that will signal Aaron’s departure from Green Bay at season’s end.
The stakes are high for the Packers – the team’s success over the next three or four years might well hinge on it.