My Take on the Aaron Jones Contract Situation

This week, I give my take on what the Packers should do with Aaron Jones.

Extending Kenny Clark last week was the first move made to keep the core of the Packers together during these financially uncertain times.  The NFL made a deal to shield themselves from the financial losses they will most certainly incur due to Covid. As a result of this new deal, the Packers, along with many teams, will find themselves scrambling to find creative ways to retain pending free agents on their roster.  

One would think the Kenny Clark deal would be structured in such a way that will help the Packers during the next three years of the cap crunch.  Immediately following the news of Clark’s extension, they were transparent (unlike with disseminating news from their practices) about the fact that Aaron Jones was now their top priority to extend.  

I know these sentiments come with some controversy due to the philosophy that running backs are a dime a dozen and have a short shelf life.  Trust me, I get it.  However, it is important to remember, that the NFL is beginning to adjust to the new normal and getting deals done with pending free agents that fit into your salary cap now becomes paramount.  

The Packers top 51 cutoff left them with about $13.3 million in cap space (figure the final two roster spots will cost an additional $1.3 million) leaving them with $12 million in cap space with approximately $8-8.5 million to use before/during the 2020 season.  With the $8-8.5 million in reserve funds the Packers can afford to take care of Aaron Jones with a 5-year deal including the 2020 season, for $43 million, $23 million guaranteed, and a $16 million signing bonus.  The $6.7 million 2020 cap hit would leave the Packers with an additional $1.3-1.8 million in reserve to spend on a free agent or another team friendly extension.

Here’s how the Aaron Jones contract would breakdown, (Note: there are a few different ways to structure this contract) (I gave the Packers a team friendly cap number in 2021 because of the impending financial losses due to Covid):

5 Years

$43 Million

$23 Million Guaranteed, $16 million signing bonus

2020

$3.24 million PRB, $3.451 Guaranteed Salary

$6.7 million GTD, cap hit

2021

$3.2 PRB, $1.5 Guaranteed Salary

$4.7 million GTD, cap hit (NFL Salary Cap Reduction could leave the cap between $175-198.2 million)

2022

$3.25 PRB, $1.75 Guaranteed Salary, $300,000 workout bonus

$5.3 million GTD, cap hit (Cap could return closer to normal with a vaccine)

2023

$3.2 PRB (GTD), $6.4 million (dead cap)

$11.2 million cap hit, $3.2 million guaranteed, $8 million non- guaranteed ($4.8 million cap profit if cut)

2024

$3.2 PRB, GTD money, $12 million base salary non-guaranteed

$15.2 million cap hit ($12 million cap profit if cut)

Under these terms or something similar, the Packers could definitely retain Jones and hopefully another pending free agent.  It is clear that Russ Ball is going to have to get creative in order to resign David Bakhtiari.  One way to resign him and adapt to the Covid reduced salary cap would be to give him a lot of money upfront in the form of signing bonuses over the first two years of the extension.  

There are definitely a lot of roster moves that will have to happen in order to move money around to retain key players.  The reduced cap number over the next three years also ensures that a lot of tough decisions will have to be made in order for the Packers to remain in compliance with the salary cap.  This makes the next three NFL drafts even more important!

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Comments (21)

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King_James's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:02 am

I appreciate the idea, but there's a notable flaw with your contract. Any new contract would be an extension on the 1 year 2 million dollars that's left on the current contract. So if we take that into account, your proposed contract would be a 4 year over 10 million per extension, which is way too high given what we know. The same people who correctly predicted Clarks average per year are predicting an average per year for Jones at 5-7 million.

That might seem low but the Packers have all the leverage here. There's still a year left on the current contract, there's not going to be a ton of money available in FA next year, and there are a ton of RBs whos contracts are running out and are going to be FAs next year. Law of supply and demand.

I think they'll get this done as both sides seem to want it and have incentive to get it done. I'm predicting a 3 year 6.5 million per extension, which averages out to a 4 year and a little over 5 million per year. That can easily be managed under the cap and still give us room to bring back King or Bakhtiari.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:24 am

I think the number one issue on re-signing these players is Gute's philosophy. Are they "all-in" for 2020 to 2022: that is, the next three seasons of AR being in GB and presumably a good to great QB? Those 3 years also have ZaDarius and Preston Smith, Amos and Turner plus Clark under contract.

Do they think GB can win a super bowl while keeping a prudent eye on the long-term: what I call the taking one step back and trusting draft and development since that means losing good players like Linsley and Jones, and/or Bakh.

We are still waiting to see how Ball and Gute structured Clark's new contract. I've already suggested that his Cap hits will look like:
2020: $6M
2021: $11M
2022: $20M
2023: $20M
2024: $21.7M

If 2021 is something like $14M or $16M, that tells me GB likely will let big-name, proven players walk next year. I don't think Jones will prove too troublesome to re-sign, and King depends on performance. But Linsley is going to get paid well barring injury, and Bakh is going to break the bank.

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Leatherhead's picture

August 24, 2020 at 10:26 am

I agree that the GMs philosophy is the main consideration.

If you look at who is under contract for the next several seasons, it seems to me that we’re going to try to win with Rodgers, and if we don’t then we can at least put a good team around Love in two or three years. On offense, Dillon, Dexter Williams, Deguara, Sternberger, will all be ours. We have Rodgers-to-Adams for two more years.

Jones had a real good season but you could have all your RBs on a rookie contract and spend money elsewhere for the next couple of years.

Defensively, Amos, Savage, Alexander, Smith, Smith, Clark, Koke....all ours for the next three years. Add in Lowry, Kirksey, Sullivan, Jackson, Green and that’s most of the defense.

I don’t think it’s an either/or.....we’re trying to win with Rodgers while simultaneously preparing to win without him. Over the years one thing is certain: We rarely win when he doesn’t start.

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Stroh's picture

August 25, 2020 at 12:44 am

The Packers aren't an "All In" team. They proved it when the drafted Rodgers while still having Favre. They draft for the future. The HC has to make it work for the present, but the GM has to think long term.

I don't think Jones is the next priority, that needs to be Bahktiari. After that it can be between Jones and King (a case can be made either way). The Packers are not going to give Jones anything close to 9M per, I don't care how the numbers break down. They simply are not going to pay him that much. Something similar to Eckler would make alot of sense.

Don't want to beat a horse as it were, but drafting is about the future, not the present. Same goes for resigning players. Bahktiari has as many good years ahead of him as Jones given that RB have a very short shelf life, while OT can play at a very high level into the low to mid 30's.

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fansince1959's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:22 am

We all love Aaron Jones but i believe our first priority ought to be Bakhtiari

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King_James's picture

August 23, 2020 at 08:09 am

Sure, in a vacuum the all pro LT should be prioritized over the probowl RB. But in this case the RB is younger and much cheaper to bring back (like 1/3 the cost). And given the cap situation it might be prudent to wait until next off-season to try to get a deal done with Bakhtiari when we will know more of what we're working with and if we can manage it. Plus there's always the franchise tag if we can't get a deal done, something that we wouldn't dare use on Jones because of the price tag.

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Stroh's picture

August 25, 2020 at 01:02 am

RB have a very short shelf life, whereas OT can play at a Pro bowl level into their low and even mid 30's. Jones is a good RB, but he's not a Pro bowl RB (I would rank him somewhere in the 8-12 range overall among NFL RB), while Bahktiari is an All Pro (top 2 or 3) not just a pro bowl OT. Then you take into account positional value where OT is much higher than RB. RB are a dime a dozen and while I like Jones, he is replaceable w/ a mid round pick, while to get another OT your looking at a mid 1st rd pick to get even close to Bahktiari.

There is no way the Packers are going to give Jones the contract the author mentioned. Not a chance. Something similar to Eckler's 4 yr 24 M makes a lot of sense on both side IMO. Now that the Packers have Clark's deal done, Bahktiari has to be the next highest priority. After him, they can choose between Jones and King (a case can be made either way).

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stockholder's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:48 am

After Clark. The message is defense. While I would sign Jones. 5 years is to much! Say 3, or let him walk. The OL is changing!!! That will have an effect on Jones, and others. The player I want is King. ( I Just can't see the next 3 drafts spent on CBs. Or wasted Trade capitol, trying. ) If pettine goes. This defense goes. The secondary stays. And I for one, saw too many problems replacing Woodson , Collins, and look how Williams was needed. King makes this whole defense better. Losing Casey Hayward was a mistake. Losing King will be a bigger one. Exceptional players are hard to find. This season will tell us what is needed.

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fansince1959's picture

August 23, 2020 at 11:48 am

We have a lot of people we'd like back next year as well----if you don't have a solid left tackle you are done.

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Guam's picture

August 23, 2020 at 08:09 am

I am not sure the author understands what the 2020 reserve fund ($8.0 to $8.5 million) is for. It is not there to sign current players to long term contracts. It is there to sign replacement players to short term contracts in case injuries shelve key players for extended periods of the season. Should the Packers need to resign Veldheer or Williams or some other player as a replacement, they can not have used up most of the reserve fund to sign Aaron Jones. His suggestion is a misuse of the reserve fund and could cause the Packers serious in-season problems.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 23, 2020 at 10:37 am

Last year Jones had over 20 touchdowns. King was the number two CB and looked good. As much as I would hate to see Bak go, his price tag is too high. The team can resign multiple young players for the teams future. If Matt’s offense Is no longer relying on the line to pass block for 10 seconds then I can understand if they let Bak go. In any case, let’s see how the season goes and enjoy what we have this year.

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TheVOR's picture

August 23, 2020 at 10:40 am

Jones will not be retained, and if he is it's a mistake. RB's emerge, are drafted, and quickly prove to be more than adequate additions to a roster.

The priority clearly and simply has to be - David Bakhtiari, end of conversation! Jones will not be in GB next season, they can't do both. Jones can be replaced, Bakhtiari would be nearly impossible to replace with equal talent, or even close to that talent .

QB's and LT's are hugely important to any offense, you either have one or you don't.. David Bakhtiari simply has to next, and if not we're screwed.

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Duneslick's picture

August 23, 2020 at 12:39 pm

Why are their 2 thumbs down. We have 4 running backs and no one after Bak at left tackle is even close to having starting ability. LT is a key position and RB can be replaced. Dillion can replace jones.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:25 pm

Probably because VOR is so adamant about re-signing Jones. I tend to agree that Bakh is the next priority, but I don't think Jones is easily replaceable. No, I didn't downvote VOR, but I think his argument is questionable. I think Jones will come cheap enough to strongly consider his retention. It depends on how Dillon looks, imo.

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PF4L's picture

August 23, 2020 at 06:57 pm

Agreed....Bakhtiari has to be next, especially considering we have a couple of unproven free agents competing for the starting right tackle spot. We are going to see how that works out soon enough, good or bad.

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Packers0808's picture

August 23, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Jones and Bak both have huge pieces to play in our offense! Losing either is a major blow to the offense no matter the reason!

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packerbackerjim's picture

August 23, 2020 at 05:45 pm

I expect the New Abnormal to result in contracts of shorter duration with the signing bonus being paramount.

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PF4L's picture

August 23, 2020 at 06:32 pm

FYI.....The league guaranteed a minimum Salary Cap for 2021 at 190 million. Almost a 9 million dollar reduction from this season.

Keep in mind, the Packers have other players like Linsley, Bakhtiari, King, etc. to consider for next season. I have a feeling if Dillon shows potential, Jones will be gone.
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It's fairly clear that Gute is not worried about winning now, two #1 picks sitting on the bench, and outside of Adams, some of the worst pass catchers in the league tells me that. So at the end of the day, nothing matters until we finally see the team that Gute and LeFleur have built in LeFleur's "Shanahan" vision. Two or three years from now.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:26 pm

The guaranteed minimum is $175M for 2021. That will make things awkward.

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flackcatcher's picture

August 23, 2020 at 09:02 pm

I still think the league will have another round of Cap relief after this season. Who knows if there is even going to be a complete season this year. It is a bitter pill for the owners to sallow, but the short term without relief, could wreck the league for years to come.

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CoachDino's picture

August 23, 2020 at 07:09 pm

Couple points - As Packer fans we are all big fans of A Jones and he deserves what ever he can get.

The Value of a Top 3 LT is drastically higher than that of a Top 5 RB.
Long term contracts for RB's is much riskier than most any other position. 3 yrs top.
Not prudent to take your cap$ down to zero as explained earlier.

On the bright side 2021 RB FA is unprecedented as to the talent available.
The most viable option is to let A Jones try FA and see what happens.
The key isn't always getting the best player available but the ability to ensure that the gap between what you had and what you finish with has a limited differential. The odds of doing that at RB compared to LT for the Packers vastly different.

Spend the Money on the LT and CB in my opinion before RB.

All that said I'm still "Hoping" we obtain A Jones for a fair price. He's a great back and teammate.

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