Green Bay Packers

Why Do People Think Aaron Jones Will Be A Cap Casualty?

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to find someone who embodies the spirit of the Green Bay Packers the way running back Aaron Jones does. From his dynamic running ability, his locker room presence, his willingness to put the team first, and his overall-delightful demeanor, few have ever carried the “G” the way Jones has.

Jordan Love started playing beautiful football toward the end of the season. Combined with Jones’s return from his unfortunate lingering injuries, we saw what a truly thriving Matt LaFleur offense can look like. Jones has thoroughly established himself in Green Bay, on and off the field.

That’s why it’s surprising that NFL.com’s Matt Okuda views Jones as a potential cap casualty.

Jones’ cap number might be high, and the league has devalued running backs over the years, but Jones has proven his value in Green Bay. The Packers have plenty of options to manage Jones’ cost. With his importance to the organization, he’ll almost certainly be back in green and gold in 2024.

Okuda’s case isn’t completely unfair in a vacuum. Green Bay has uncertainty in the running back room. Jones is in the last year of his deal, and A.J. Dillon is a free agent. Jones also has a $17 million cap hit, the league’s second-highest among running backs — just behind Alvin Kamara.

Jones also missed a career-high six games with a hamstring injury. He wasn’t back up to speed until late in the season, causing him to have a disappointing year. Jones finished the season with 656 yards, two rushing TDs, and 4.6 yards per carry.

Still, those numbers don’t tell the full story of his season.

Jones had his first 100-yard game of the season when he was fully healthy and a focus of the offense in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers, finishing with 127 yards. Jones finished the 2023 season with five-straight games of over 100 yards, including the playoffs, a first in franchise history.

He scored three touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round, giving him nine total against that storied franchise. Jones became just one of three Packers running backs to record at least three three-plus rush TDs. That was his third playoff game with two-plus rushing touchdowns, and the only ones with more are all in the Hall of Fame.

“I can’t say enough great things about the guy, the football player,” Matt LaFleur said following the victory, “What he means to our team. The leadership he brings. He’s a rare guy. There’s not many like him. Just how he encourages his teammates, how he uplifts his teammates.”

Even in the disappointing loss to the San Francisco 49ers the following week, Jones still put up 108 yards, ending the season strong.

Jones wasn’t on the field all season, but he was one of the offense’s most valuable pieces when available. Even though he’ll turn 30 next season and has had an injury history, Jones means too much to the team to move on.

As mentioned, Green Bay has uncertainty at the running back position. Dillon is a free agent, and we don’t know what his market looks like. Dillon has also made a name for himself in the Green Bay community. Still, he may price himself out of the team’s budget. Emanual Wilson showed some nice things, but he’s still a raw player. Jones is the only established back currently on the roster.

Of course, we had this conversation about Jones last year. He took a $5 million pay cut to stay with the team, and that restructuring pushed a larger cap hit to 2024 with some void years in the future.

So Jones’ 2024 cap hit will be high unless the Packers make a similar restructure. A to Z Sports’ Wendell Ferreira broke down the three possible scenarios for handling Jones’ contract: keeping it as is, restructuring, or extending. What’s clear from all options is that if the Packers want to keep Jones, they can make it happen.

Is that what the Packers want?

Yes.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Brian Gutekunst said when a reporter asked about Jones’ future in his end-of-the-year press conference. “We’d love to have Aaron back. We’re still putting all those things together as far as how we’re going to move forward, but he was such a difference-maker when he was out there this year. The way our offense was able to move, the way he changed a lot of the way we operated when he was in there and when he was healthy.”

That’s about as clear of a statement as one could get. It’s worth noting that Gutekunst’s responses to similar questions about David Bakhtiari were far more vague.

The arguments about Jones as a cap casualty make sense from the outside. But knowing his value to the heart of the team, his strong end to the 2023 season, and the general manager’s comments all point to Jones staying in Green Bay for at least one more year. And it’s the right call. Even with the ascension of Jordan Love and the young receivers, Jones is an irreplaceable part of this offense.

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