The Green Bay Packers turned to running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams as their one-two rushing punch during the 2019 season, and now both hands of that punch will earn fatter paychecks next season.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Jones and Williams each earned a base salary escalator that will bump their salaries from $735,000 to $2.147 million for the 2020 season based on the NFL’s “proven performance escalator.” The escalators, which are awarded based on playing time to players drafted between the third and seventh rounds, are expected to cost the Packers about $2.632 million in cap space and will limit their spending potential.
Jones was a breakout star for the Packers during their most recent campaign with his first 1,000-yard rushing season and 19 total touchdowns, tying for the most in the NFL with Christian McCaffrey. He also caught 49 passes for 474 yards to finish as the team’s third-leading receiver while playing 62 percent of offensive snaps.
While not nearly as prolific of a runner, Williams proved to be the perfect complement to Jones’ skill set and was even more dangerous as a red-zone receiving threat. Star wideout Davante Adams was the only other player in a Packers uniform to match him with five touchdown passes, while Williams also touted a catch percentage of 86.7 on the year.
It might hurt the cap space a little bit, but it would be hard to argue the additional money isn’t well earned for both of them.
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Jones Will Command Much Higher Price on Next Deal
While Jones is still signed through the 2020 season, the Packers would be wise to think ahead to resigning their dynamic lead running back as he enters the fourth and final year on his rookie contract.
It will be interesting to see how Jones and LaFleur’s offensive system bend and adapt to one another during the offseason now that the Packers have 18 games of meaningful tape to evaluate. LaFleur emphasized throughout the season a desire to get the ball in Jones’ hands more often, but the Packers were still inconsistent with how often it worked — a problem that seemed to fall more on scheme than Jones’ ability to make plays.
The other question mark about the Packers’ rushing future is whether they will proceed with the two-back attack or put a heavier focus on Jones despite a bump in financial investment on both of them. It might be nice imagining a future where Jones and Williams are both Packers for the long haul, but it isn’t very financially sound, especially if both rushers take steps forward in 2020.
The good news: Jones is more than capable of shouldering the rushing load on his own, as he showed in games where Williams was either unavailable or diminished in some capacity. And while Jones is the obvious top choice if a decision ever had to be made, the Packers won’t need to worry about the future of the position until they have another season under their belts.