Aaron Jones Lacking Leverage in Packers Contract Talks?

Aaron Jones Contract Leverage

Getty Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers rushes with the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship game at Levi's Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California.

Aaron Jones was far and away the Green Bay’s breakout player of the season after he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and an NFL-leading 19 total touchdowns, but does the third-year running back’s single-season success give him enough leverage to make an early push for a lucrative contract extension with the Packers?

Well, it’s sort of complicated.

Jones heads into 2020 as one of the Packers’ most dynamic offensive pieces alongside quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams after putting on some head-turning performances during the 2019 season. He finished with 1,084 rushing yards, 474 receiving yards and scored multiple touchdowns in six different regular-season games, all while splitting reps and working in tandem with fellow rusher Jamaal Williams.

Both Packers running backs hit the proven performance escalators in their current contract last year — raising their base salaries from $735,000 to $2.147 million for the 2020 season — and figure to operate as a one-two punch out of the backfield again. For a second-option rusher like Williams, the pay bump is nice, but Jones seems destined for millions more in his next NFL deal after rating among the best running backs in the league last season.

That said, there are a number of roadblocks that could stand in Jones’ way — or force his hand — when it comes to trying to secure a contract extension with the Packers before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

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Could Jones Hold Out for 2020 Season?

Questions about a possible holdout are definitely worth asking when you consider how high Jones’ value is currently on the market.

According to Spotrac projections, Jones could command nearly $15 million annually on his next deal with the market value estimating a contract extension worth roughly $59.89 million over four years. Such a deal would put him within range of Ezekiel Elliott, who signed a six-year, $90 million extension with the Dallas Cowboys last year, and ahead of other comparable rushers such as Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. Another strong season would only solidify Jones’ case for pulling down a high-end paycheck.

But while Jones hasn’t breathed a public word about considering a holdout for 2020, there are also legitimate arguments that holding out would do more harm than good for someone like Jones. Look no further than Melvin Gordon, who held out of the Los Angeles Chargers’ first four games in 2019 and inadvertently handed Austin Ekeler an opportunity to swipe his job. If the Chargers bring Gordon back for 2020, it won’t be at his desired price tag.

The same thing could potentially happen in Green Bay if Jones tries leveraging a holdout into a new deal. Williams doesn’t have quite the same explosive skill set, but he is a hard-charge running back who is plenty useful in the passing game. The Packers don’t want to depend exclusively on Williams out of the backfield, but who knows how he might thrive if he needed to become the primary back.

The Packers don’t exactly have the luxury of being able to focus their resources on Jones, either. Star nose tackle Kenny Clark seems to be the first one in line to ink a new contract extension with the Packers before he becomes a free agent in 2021, while David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley and Kevin King are also due to become free agents at the same time as Jones and Williams.

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