The Green Bay Packers are going into the 2021 offseason needing to make decisions on a number of important unrestricted free agents. Over the next few weeks, we’ll review the individual situation for all the major players with expiring contracts.
First up: Aaron Jones, the Packers’ Pro Bowl running back:
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Jones played in 14 of 16 regular-season games and produced 1,459 total yards and 11 total touchdowns. His career-high 1,104 rushing yards ranked fourth in the NFL. He was also third among qualified running backs in yards per carry (5.5), seventh among all players in yards from scrimmage, tied for 11th in rushing touchdowns (nine) and tied for 13th in total touchdowns. He caught 47 passes for 355 yards and two scores. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced 38 missed tackles, averaged 3.54 yards after contact and created 26 explosive runs. Jones had three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 168 in Week 2. He scored a touchdown in 10 of 16 games overall. While his rushing yards increased slightly over 2019, he regressed in total yards and total touchdowns in 2020. Over the last two seasons, Jones is tied for second among all NFL players in total touchdowns (30) and fifth in total yards (3,017). He fumbled twice and was limited to 147 total yards and one touchdown in two postseason games in 2020
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Jones was on the field for 539 snaps during the regular season, or 52 percent of the offense’s total snaps. He played 62 percent last season, but he also appeared in all 16 games. Only four times did he play 70 percent or more of the offense’s snaps, a reflection of Matt LaFleur’s commitment to limiting his play time and keeping him fresh throughout the season. Jones only rushed 20 or more times in one game.
AP Photo/Matt Ludtke
Jones was named to his first Pro Bowl after creating another dynamic season for the No. 1 scoring offense in football. His volume statistics weren’t quite as good as 2019, but he was just as valuable and just as important in 2020. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and had 26 runs over 10 yards, showcasing both his efficiency and big-play ability. An ideal fit in the wide zone run game, Jones is consistently excellent at pressing the line of scrimmage, finding the right lane and exploding upfield. Long touchdown runs against the Lions and Eagles were pivotal moments in both wins. His three worst rushing games by yards all resulted in Packers losses (at Buccaneers, at Colts, vs. Buccaneers). By approximate value, Jones has been the third-most valuable running back in the NFL over the last two seasons.
Future value to Packers
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High, but he will also be valued highly by teams capable of spending in free agency this spring. With two years of evidence to survey, it’s hard to imagine a better fit in the Matt LaFleur offense at the running back position. Jones is an impressive blend of explosiveness, patience, toughness and elusiveness. Still only 26, he has dynamic running ability and can create in the passing game, making him an ideal candidate for a lucrative long-term deal. The Packers just aren’t in a position to provide one to a running back, and there is always significant risk in spending big money at the position. The Packers must figure out if they want Jones and A.J. Dillon as a long-term tandem at running back, or Dillon is ready to take over the lead role. The second-round investment suggests the Packers are expecting Dillon to be a major contributor in 2021, but it’s been reported by multiple outlets that the Packers have offered Jones good money. He will likely test the open market. He’d be stupid not to. A return to Green Bay looks unlikely.
Published: 2021-02-06 00:10:51
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