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Aaron Jones Deserves an Extension!

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.”

RB Aaron Jones

Oct 6, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) runs with the ball in the first quarter against Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) at AT&T Stadium. Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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14 Comments

  1. John Jacobson April 15, 2020

    It’s going to be a serious challenge keeping this team together going forward into the 2021 season. It sure would be nice to have some of the cash back that we paid out to Graham because Jones is certainly deserving of a raise as well as just about every upcoming free agent that the team needs to deal with. Bahktiari could break the bank. I can see why they are hoping for compensatory picks in next years draft because they are going to be looking for several starters, not just depth, or develpmental projects.

  2. Howard April 15, 2020

    Rob, the confusion on Aaron Jones receiving 2.133 million this year is because Jones was one of two Packers who met the requirements to receive a “proven performance escalator pay increase”. The other Packer was Williams.
    Players drafted in the 3rd through 7th rounds are entitled by the previous CBA to receive a pay increase in their 4th year if they meet snap count percentage requirements. The requirement can be met in a couple of ways. The easiest way is the player has to be on the field for 35% of the offensive or defensive plays in their first three seasons. If the players meets the snap count percentage criteria their 4th year salary is increased to whatever the minimum salary is for a restricted free agent for that year, with a teams right of first refusal.
    Last year the Packers paid the proven performance escalators to Martinez, Fackrell, and Lowery.
    The recent CBA will include second round picks as being eligible to receive escalators if they meet certain snap count percentages.
    I think over the cap keeps a chart on the players in the league who could be or are eligible for escalator.

  3. Andy Peth April 15, 2020

    Yes he does, and we can’t afford it.

  4. Mitch Anthony April 15, 2020

    Draft smart. Draft very very smart because the FA class of 21 will not all remain Packers. I’d agree with an extension along the lines of the numbers listed but I’d also be interested in who to say goodbye to in order to afford to keep Aaron Jones, the ultimate beer chugger, Kenny Clark, and who else? So long Linsley, Taylor, maybe Kevin King.

    There’s reasons I hope Antonio Gibson falls into GB’s lap in R4.

  5. Big B April 15, 2020

    McCaffrey’s deal screws the pooch for the Packers getting Jones signed; had the Pack been proactive and extended him a few weeks ago maybe ~$7-8M/year could have been feasible but now he’ll want at least $10-12M. Jones is good but not proven to be durable so RB is another need to fill next week. Russ Ball may be a cap genius but my Gestalt is the Packers seem financially hamstrung more than other teams. Maybe that’s just the reality when your QB eats up $30+M/yr; a QB on a rookie deal allows 3-4 more premier players to be signed. Sign Bahk and Clark, then let Jones and Lindsley walk for comp picks.

    1. PF4L April 16, 2020

      Rodgers cap number is 21.6 million for this season, or about 10.9% of the total cap.
      *
      The 4 free agents Gute signed last year account for 49.5 million, or 25% of the cap.
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      It’s not all because of Rodgers.
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      Details are important, that’s why J P has me on the payroll

      1. Big B April 16, 2020

        it’s the big picture with multiple details, my man. Rodgers cap hit is $36M in 2021 and $40M in 2022; that’s a big chunk of the pie. I’m glad we have him but he comes at a price…on several levels.

        1. PF4L April 16, 2020

          Bigger picture….Just because his cap hit is 36 million a year in 2021, doesn’t mean it will be 36 mill a year from now. These adjustments and manipulating the numbers is a constant.

  6. Kato April 16, 2020

    You can’t pay every everyone. I love Aaron Jones, but they can replace him in the draft. The 49ers have some not so big names running the ball to great success. Find another runner that fits your system, and invest in your offensive line. Games are won up front.

    1. PF4L April 16, 2020

      I’m more in line with Kato’s thinking. Jones had a hell of a year and he was a vital cog in the team going 13-3. But it’s one season. Following 2 seasons of injuries. In his defense, he took a lot of punishment last season, and didn’t miss a game, but again…one year. You’d like to see a larger body of work before you buy him a castle.
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      The other thing is, Gute is a disciple of Big Ted, paying running backs huge money usually isn’t on the radar in Green Bay.
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      I didn’t look at PFF or O line rankings, but it seems to me the line run blocked well last season. Like Kato said keep the O line talent up. Maybe Jonathon Taylor is available in the 2nd round and the Packers could move up. I wouldn’t hate that move.

      1. KzooPackFan April 19, 2020

        Agree w Kato & PF4L here. Aaron Jones is a fantastic football player and from appearances also a fantastic person. But the team has to look at this from the perspective of who is harder to replace, or who’s replacement, while perhaps less capable, has less of a detrimental impact on overall performance of the offense or the team? Who is easier to compensate for the potential drop off. RB as a position is one of the easiest to replace, and to compensate for. QB is the hardest, followed by probably LT. The loss of David Bahktiari would be way more detrimental than the loss of Aaron Jones. If you have to choose, you choose the LT.

        1. PF4L April 20, 2020

          Yep….
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          Show me a hole the O line made, and give me any running back in the league and he can run through it, even i can. That’s not to take anything away from Jones, but if your going to burden your salary cap, do it on the O line or receiver vs. a running back if that’s the choice…

          But again, like i said. I don’t think the Packers are giving huge money to a running back, to their credit.

          1. Howard April 20, 2020

            Kato, PF4L and Kzoo, if Jones is not in the Packers long term plans then why not try to trade him before or during this years draft?
            If the Packers can receive better than a late third round pick in this years draft should they pull the trigger?
            If Jones has another great season for the Packers, and the Packers do not intend to sign Jones to an extension, the best the Packers could hope for is a late third round comp pick in 2022. If Jones plays and has a bad year this season, due to injury or poor performance, the Packers may be able to re-sign Jones at a reasonable cost for 2021 or beyond.
            What if the Packers can’t agree to an extension with Jones after this years draft and Jones decides to holdout for the majority of the season? Jones’s value in a trade may be reduced or not fully realized and the Packers receive no compensation, or reduced trade compensation in 2021.
            If the Packers have no plan to extend Jones then why not try to trade Jones for an early third or better round pick in the 2020 draft.
            The Packers have Williams who is durable, can catch, and block in pass pro. A. Williams is not as explosive or elusive as Jones but usually gains the yards needed. Ervin can be explosive and elusive, but not much of a track record. D. Williams who knows? D. Williams was an explosive runner behind a very good O-line at ND. D.Williams in the passing game big question mark.
            So do you try to trade Jones in this years draft if another team makes a great offer, or is there to much of a potential to disrupt the locker room chemistry?

          2. KzooPackFan April 22, 2020

            I think GB would like to extend Jones, but only at a price that fits their definition of reasonable.

            You don’t trade him because he is special enough, a level or two better than any other option available, to be a difference maker this year. While he may hold out for the early part of the season he cannot do so for the full year and reach free agency, so you get him and his special level talents for the second half of the season and importantly a playoff run, without hindering your cap. An early 3rd round pick isn’t really much better than a 3rd round compensatory pick, especially since any pick is a crap shoot to actually result in a starting caliber player, much less an exceptional player.

            Aaron Jones has proven he is a high level NFL player. He’s under contract, cheap. He has to show up eventually (I don’t think he will hold out).