Cory's Corner: Is Aaron Jones Worth $20 Million?

Will his sixth season be Jones' last in Green Bay?

Aaron Jones has been a vital component to the Packers’ offense. He fits the bill perfectly because of how much versatility he brings, as a runner breaking tackles, as a pass catcher getting upfield and even as a blocker for Aaron Rodgers. 

Jones will be playing under a cap hit of $5.9 million in 2022, which is an uptick from his $4.4 million a year ago. 

The problem lies in 2023. That’s when his cap hit skyrockets to $20 million. Jaire Alexander will be a free agent in 2023 and will command top dollar as will Elgton Jenkins — one of the most versatile offensive lineman in the league. 

Unless the Packers restructure his deal, I don’t see how Jones is in Green Bay after 2022. According to OverTheCap.com, the dead cap number is $4 million if the Packers cut him after June 1, with a savings of $16 million. 

The reason why this is important now is because the Packers have to know if AJ Dillon can handle the load. But I think they already do. They have seen him catch, run and block. Granted, Dillon isn’t as shifty as Jones, but Dillon also gives the Packers plenty of cap flexibility. 

Coming into this season, the top cap numbers for running backs are 1. Ezekiel Elliott ($18.2 million), 2. Derrick Henry ($15 million), 3. Dalvin Cook ($11.8 million), 4. Joe Mixon ($11.4 million), 5. Christian McCaffrey ($8.7 million). There’s no reason to give Jones $20 million when Dalvin Cook — the top running back in the NFC in my opinion — will top out at $15.6 million in 2024. 

The X-factor in all of this is Kylin Hill. He played the role of Jones before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in October. He is shifty, he can do multiple things and most importantly, he is much cheaper. The question will remain if Hill is back to 100 percent mentally and physically.

Because if he’s not ready to absorb contact, can Dillon be an everyday featured back? He proved that he can catch passes, run and make people miss and he’s also willing to block. But is he ready to do it week after week when teams will be keying on him?

That’s why the Jones and Dillon combo worked so well. When Dillon was running well between the tackles, Matt LaFleur quickly changed gears and let Jones bust it outside. The moment that the opposing defense didn’t have its run defense on the field, the ball would go to Dillon as he hammered his way to a sizable gain. 

The Packers will likely ask Jones if he is willing to restructure his deal to stay in Green Bay. If he declines, I don’t see him sticking around. The NFL Draft showed us how much general managers value wide receivers as six went in the first 18 picks. 

This isn’t a three yards and a cloud of dust game anymore. These are dynamic, pass-happy offenses that love to keep defenses guessing. 

There could also be this scenario where Jones lines up at wide receiver for a number of snaps. He has very good production and it could have a reverse Deebo Samuel effect. Maybe he wants even more money because of everything that is being asked of him. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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8 points

Comments (41)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Pantz_Burp's picture

May 14, 2022 at 06:46 am

Thanks CJJ for the article. Here is where I have to put my business cap on. If #12 is on the roster after this coming season, I feel I have to wish AJ well and try to trade, or release him. If #12 isn't on the roster the following season, I say to keep him (or if Bakh isn't able to regain his form). Meaning, I would see if money comes available where I could sign him...but, I wouldn't take any of the chess pieces away from the Defense just yet. Also, like you said...if Hill makes a full recovery and/or one of our new RB truly shows they can handle the pros and fit into LaF's system...well, you have to consider wishing AJ well on another team.

As a fan, I LOVE AJ and what he embodies as a Packer player on this roster...seems like such a talented, respectful and humble dude. It has been a pleasure to see the RB room with those types of dudes...pushing each other in a respectable manner. Now, get back Jamaal Williams from the Lions and I will be overjoyed. At the very least, add him to our Tundra Line when he hangs up his cleats so he can bust out his dance moves again!

In reality, I know you can't keep them all and the business end of the game, I leave to the FO at 1265 Lombardi Ave.

*Hey CJJ, a huge CONGRATs on earning your Master's Degree! Very cool...👍

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 14, 2022 at 01:03 pm

I'd do the opposite, Burp.

No AR in 2023, trade/release Jones.
AR stays for '23, restructure Jones.

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Coldworld's picture

May 14, 2022 at 01:11 pm

Health aside and assuming his play remains good, I think the same way too TGR.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 14, 2022 at 01:43 pm

Interesting TGR...if No AR, I would want Jones. My thinking is because shorter passes to a RB or TE might be easier for Love than intermediate or long bombs (assuming Love is the starter?). I must disclose I have never been a QB and I only played in high school where we tied the best record for our school my senior year. Our record was 4-5 (yep, never had a winning season). Sooo, there is that ... :)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 15, 2022 at 02:24 am

That makes sense. It is extremely likely that having Jones would make things easier for Love, and might translate into an extra win or two.

I don't believe in the seamless transition. I figure if AR goes, keeping a 29 year-old running back with a big contract ($16M in cash is due in 2023, none of which is guaranteed) makes no sense. Probably can't trade him with that contract, either. The last thing a team should be is expensive and bad at the same time, while drafting in the mid-teens.

If Love plays a few games in 2022 and looks like an NFL starting QB (or if the coaches see that in him and think he needs a fair chance by keeping Bakh, Jones, etc.), then I might change my mind. Otherwise, any older player who is expensive will get strict scrutiny from me.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

May 15, 2022 at 06:05 am

Thanks for sharing your insight TGR. Your point of view makes sense but maybe we can agree to disagree on this one? I may be placing too high a value on his leadership, locker room presence and ultimate team player approach to the game and Packer organization....I do know that RB has a short shelf life so his age is definitely something to factor in as well as the rest of the RBs on the roster with their potential and current lower contract value.

If no AR and no AJ, where would you like to allocate the monies to?

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2022 at 07:01 am

That $20M will likely be restructured, depending how this season goes. Really unfortunate Kylin Hill had the knee injury. He’s truly a premier RB, and he’ll likely start the season on the PUP, or, they place him on the roster and sit him for a couple months to further heal. Not sure how many we can designate.

Kylin is a workhorse. Damned unique as well. He’s got an innate sense for where to cut North-South, and when he does, he explodes decisively. Also can motor down or up after to avoid tacklers for big gains.

Can’t wait to see him utilized with Aaron & AJ.

None of our RBs get used enough. There’s rhythm, pace, momentum, and punishment opposing D’s face with a heavy dose. It also energizes your own Offense. OL absolutely LOVE teeing off on DL & LBs. And, more I’d list, but I’m tired of saying it for 11 years… uh, running.

So many benefits, yet we NEVER see it. Running less makes running more difficult…. And, I didn’t mean that like Yogi Berra might have meant what that meant. If you know what I mean…

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pack1487's picture

May 14, 2022 at 07:20 am

A 7th round rookie RB with 10 carries and 1 catch to his name is all of a sudden a NFL workhorse RB? Fan delusion is something else.

It's one thing to cheer and support the players on the team but these proclamations are silly and ultimately won't benefit anybody, especially the player who will be working his back from injury.

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croatpackfan's picture

May 14, 2022 at 08:39 am

Yeah, like 6th round QB become GOAT. And one late 1st round QB can not lead the team through postseason after he won one more than decade before. Sure, round in which you drafted players means that late rounds players and UDFA can never become stars... Like Cory Linsley, for example.

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pack1487's picture

May 14, 2022 at 09:05 am

Where did I say late round picks can't turn into franchise players? How many RBs in the NFL would you consider workhorse RBs? And in that small list of players, you have Kylin Hill as one of them?

Why is this confusing? He could turn into a great player but why are you ok crowning him when we've only seen him in 8 games and in those games he averaged less than 2 carries per game?

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croatpackfan's picture

May 14, 2022 at 10:54 am

When you ask "where did you say late round picks can't turn into franchise players?" I will answer you with your statement:
"A 7th round rookie RB with 10 carries and 1 catch to his name is all of a sudden a NFL workhorse RB? Fan delusion is something else."

Can you find now where you said that? If that is not an issue, why did you mention that Kylin Hill is 7th round pick?

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pack1487's picture

May 14, 2022 at 11:46 am

Because he is a 7th round pick with very limited pro experience. Workhorse RBs are hard to find in any round but especially in round 7.

So I ask you again, would you consider a rookie RB with 10 total carries a workhorse RB? If you don't, then we agree 100%.

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2022 at 01:19 pm

You are clueless. Try doing some research so that you might know what you’re talkin’ about.

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Coldworld's picture

May 14, 2022 at 05:25 pm

Seems an odd hill to die on to me.

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2022 at 05:35 pm

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

TOTALLY UNDERRATED. AND COLD.

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2022 at 01:23 pm

You don’t have a clue about Hill then.

You might look into Hill’s leaving Mississippi St. when Mike Leach came storming in, promising him carries, then AIR RAID!

You clearly don’t follow the SEC, because Kylin Hill was highly regarded as the best RB in the entire SEC, stayed in school, and watched as Clyde Edwards-Helaire was selected R1 by the Chiefs.

Why do you think Gutekunst and his ENTIRE PERSONNEL STAFF thought he was a steal, R7?

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 15, 2022 at 12:12 am

He was expected to be a 5th round pick so he was good value in the 7th but not what I'd call a steal and I liked him for the Packers before the draft.

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2022 at 01:45 pm

What was your plan here anyway, ignoring his 242 ATTEMPTS for 1350 yds, 5.6 YPC, 10 TDs 18 REC for 180 yds and 1 TD, with over 1500 yds from scrimmage as a Junior in 2019?

Hill only played 3 games for Leach in 2020. Caught 23-of-27 passes (one drop) for 237 yards (10.3 average). Tied Miss St. record with 15 catches vs. Kentucky and broke the school record for most receiving yards by a running back with 158 vs. LSU.

Hill hadn’t fumbled since his Freshman year, a stretch of 448 touches.

He averaged 3.2 YAContact and forced 28 missed tackles per 100 carries.

Facts.

You know what’s silly? You. Go buy a clue. I swear…

Kylin Hill is not just a good RB, he’s a PREMIERE FEATURE RB. Try watching some film too pack1487.

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pack1487's picture

May 14, 2022 at 02:25 pm

I totally forgot that college production always equals NFL success. If your definition of premiere feature back in the NFL is less than 2 carries per game, then sign me up for whatever you're smoking.

In what world is Kylin Hill a workhorse RB in the NFL at this stage of his career? Answer me this, would you rather have Hill over the RBs below? If the answer is no, then he is not a workhorse/premiere NFL RB because a lot of these players wouldn't qualify as workhorse RBs.

Dalvin Cook
Jonathan Taylor
Nick Chubb
Joe Mixon
Najee Harris
Antonio Gibson
Ezekiel Elliott
Derrick Henry
Austin Ekeler
Alvin Kamara
David Montgomery
Aaron Jones
AJ Dillon

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Duneslick's picture

May 14, 2022 at 04:06 pm

Work Horse 10 carries and got hurt

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2022 at 05:31 pm

GTFO with that S. Garbage.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 15, 2022 at 08:39 am

Restructuring is how his 2023 salary got to be $20 million to begin with. They have to move on eventually.

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Bure9620's picture

May 14, 2022 at 07:10 am

No he would not be worth $20 Million. Even being utilized often as a recevier. He will be 30 in a couple years. I only see decline after this contract.

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stockholder's picture

May 14, 2022 at 07:11 am

He'll stay if the packers want him. And that 20 mil. will get restructured. The two question marks are Jenkins and Alexander. Alexander won't get the big bucks here. The packers can't pay the injuries. And Jenkins has a foot out the door. Especially if he stays at Guard. TT dumped his guards, years ago. And the Blue print is; pay the Tackles, not the Guards.
Shoving off, or pushing these guys. Is the likely scenario in the NFL now. And thats just the way it is. If you don't like it. Go play for a loser. Because they're the only ones who can afford their demands. If players continue their pursuit to Show me the money. They will only shoot themselves.

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croatpackfan's picture

May 14, 2022 at 08:41 am

yeah, like Davante, Hill and some others... Even CBs.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 15, 2022 at 08:41 am

Thats not true. TJ Lang and Josh Sitton both got 2nd contracts with the team. Theyre not going to let Alexander walk either.

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Philarod's picture

May 14, 2022 at 07:57 am

Quick Answer: No. (Much as I like Jones as a player, and really respect him as a person.)

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Johnblood27's picture

May 14, 2022 at 08:33 am

There is no doubt in my mind that AJ will restructure his contract after this season to a more palatable deal which equates to his role and value on the team after the offense transitions this season. He seems like a reasonable kind of guy and with his slight build his longevity in the league likely depends upon him sharing the load in the backfield and therefore not getting bell-cow full time RB cash.

Dillon is ready to be a consistent contributor from the backfield and AJ will get more touches in the passing game with Davante-vision gone from the playbook, but he will still be a PART of the backfield and NOT the whole enchilada.

There is going to be an offensive restructure and only letting it play out will determine what role(s) AJ fills and that will determine the value that Gutey will place on him. If AJ agrees-a deal will happen. If AJ doesn't agree then he will become a cap casualty or trade candidate.

I do not see any scenario where AJ leaves the GBP as a free agent and the pack get a compensatory pick.

5 points
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Since'61's picture

May 14, 2022 at 08:53 am

I would prefer AJ to remain with the Packers but not for $20 million. After 6 seasons in the league his best years will be behind him after 2022. While he has been durable for an RB he has missed time in every season except for 2019. The injury risk is always very high for an RB.

If he can work out a deal with the Packers that would be great, if not, move on. Alexander and Jenkins are more valuable to the team than an RB. AJ was a fifth round pick and I'm confident we can draft another RB or 2 if the need is that critical after this season.

I can't fault AJ if he moves on for the big bucks since he knows his next contract will likely be his last in the league. In fact, I'm hoping that he plays for the big bucks in 2022 as that can only help the Packers this season.

Congrats Cory on earning your Masters degree. I earned an MS in Management Science and an Executive MBA while working full time and raising a family. I know how much of a challenge it is. I hope that your degree adds as much to your life and career and mine did for me. Best wishes for continued success.
Thanks, Since '61

2 points
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PeteK's picture

May 14, 2022 at 08:59 am

If he has another very good season, it will be a tough call because according to spotrac if released in 23 his cap hit will be over 9 mill ( if released post June, 4 mill in 23 5 in 24), but a saving of 10.

3 points
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dobber's picture

May 14, 2022 at 09:48 am

If he stays healthy, AJones is in line for a big year--especially catching the ball. From a financial perspective, he might want to get cut, capitalize on that production, and put together one last bolus of guaranteed money. The Packers would need to convert his 2023 roster bonus and a big piece of his cash salary into signing bonus. That's a big chunk of immediate cash for him, too. Based on his last contract, he seems to feel some loyalty to the Packers.

The Packers asking him to restructure probably has more to do with what #12 does and how they see their ability to contend in the short term. Given how the Packers have handled their vets in the last year or two, who knows how this will turn out.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 15, 2022 at 02:38 am

THIS.

It is the only explanation for Jones signing that contract. He got $19.9M in the first two years ('21 and '22), and is scheduled to get $28M over the last two, but note that $16M comes in 2023 and $12M in 2024. That bump in 2023 was meant to force a renegotiation/restructure or a release. At 29, he can get a two or three year deal for 2023 with some new guaranteed money, though perhaps the AAV might not be as generous. Jones and his agent probably knew that the cap would increase a lot. I suppose the $7M roster bonus due March 19, 2023, would put a chunk of money in Jones' pocket if GB keeps him. I imagine he can get $7M in guaranteed money elsewhere as long as he is healthy and has a decent year.

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canadapacker's picture

May 14, 2022 at 10:35 am

These contracts are idiotic - there is always this balloon payment at the end of them. I dont know why they are negotiated because they ( both the teams and the players) know that they wont be honored. If the league and unions were smart they would get rid of this and negotiate a protocol where what you see is what you get and if either party wants to terminate at fixed amount is due. The NHL is opposite and you cant cut a player and void the salary. As far as Jones is concerned - this is his make it or break it year. With the changes to the team - ie Adams and MVS gone - and a healthy Oline - it is time for that duo ( both him and Dillon) to perform and take the pressure off of the passing game. Last year Jones was off and never really broke many big plays and really didnt earn his big pay day. So even if he decides to move on - he will need to prove that he still has it for another team to give him the big bucks - RB's fade fast - unless built like Adrian or Emmitt.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 15, 2022 at 02:53 am

That is an argument in favor of fully guaranteed contracts. I hate that idea.

I don't know about the NHL, but the NBA manages to remain popular with essentially guaranteed contracts. It could just be me.

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Gee's picture

May 15, 2022 at 10:47 am

Even if they can't say it out loud. I'm sure the owners are right there with you on limiting the wave of fully guaranteed contracts that have started in the few years. It must be driving them nuts when 1 owner does it, cause for me it's their last get of jail card free card the owners have. It saves them from themselves. I can't say for sure, but yeah the other owners in other sports must look with envy, at how the NFL still doesn't have league wide guaranteed contracts.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 14, 2022 at 12:05 pm

He's under contract, but contracts can be traded to another team who might see Jones as a central piece for a while. Some, rare, RBs do play into their thirties, and Jones might be one of them. Perhaps we could trade him for a 3rd round pick after this season, especially if he plays really well.

I don't see him hanging on with the Packers past this season unless he just wants to play in Green Bay for a lot less money than $20 million.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 14, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Everybody knew it was a two year deal when he signed it. Then they restructured it this year to push more money out. There's nothing they can do now without an extension and that's not happening with Dillon there. I don't think there's a GM in the league silly enough to trade for a RB with a $10 million salary, not when the Cowboys already have Elliott anyway.

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

May 16, 2022 at 10:22 am

I would agree with you, but I just watched the Raiduhs give us a first and a second to trade for a WR with a $20 million/year price tag.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 16, 2022 at 10:22 am

I would agree with you, but I just watched the Raiduhs give us a first and a second to trade for a WR with a $20 million/year price tag.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 14, 2022 at 12:49 pm

It’s not like it’s real money. It’s just cap stuff. ;-)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 15, 2022 at 02:55 am

$16M of it would be unguaranteed cash. [I do know that you are mostly just yanking my chain!]

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