The Green Bay Packers have already had to have some tough conversations about the future of several established veterans on the roster, but general manager Brian Gutekunst has already made his decision on Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones.
Jones and his contract have been under the microscope heading into the offseason. With the Packers being able to potentially save over $10 million in cap space by parting ways with him, there had been plenty of speculation about the 28-year-old being a cap casualty or a possible trade piece.
Instead, the Packers are going to keep Jones in Green Bay. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted on the morning of Friday, February 17 that the Packers and Jones had agreed to restructure his contract in order to clear cap space for the upcoming season.
Jones has been a part of two different head coaching regimes since being drafted by the Packers in 2017. Now, it’s looking more promising that he’ll be able to spend his entire career in Green Bay.
Who Else Could Be a Cap Casualty in Green Bay?
Gutekunst is far from done restructuring contracts, fielding trade offers, and outright releasing veterans this offseason. The Packers were a projected $16.4 million over the cap in 2023 before restructuring Jones, and they’ll have plenty of work to do to keep chipping away at that number.
The cap will become even more difficult if Rodgers retires or is traded before June 1. That would result in over $40 million in dead cap, with a net loss of $8.7 million for 2023 by offloading the remainder of his contract.
David Bakhtiari has been a named mentioned as a cap casualty. A knee injury at the end of the 2020 season has been a lingering issue for over two years, even causing him to be a last-minute scratch against the Buffalo Bills during the year. While the All-Pro left tackle continues to play at a high level when healthy, the Packers would save $5.7 million in cap space by cutting him.
The Packers are much more likely willing to restructure Bakhtiari in order to keep him around, but the 32-year-old could also consider retiring if Rodgers leaves.
Preston Smith is the only other viable outright cut candidate. The Packers would save nearly $3.3 million by releasing him, but with Rashan Gary recovering from a torn ACL, there are very few outside linebackers currently on the roster. Smith has also been a reliable run defender and solid pass rusher, so Gutekunst will likely find ways to get creative with retaining him as well.
An Impressive Career for Aaron Jones
Expectations weren’t very high for Jones coming out of UTEP. However, the former fifth-round pick has developed into Green Bay’s most reliable offensive weapon over the past few seasons.
Since coming to Green Bay, Jones has rushed for 5,284 yards and 43 touchdowns while averaging an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. He’s also been a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield, hauling in 242 receptions for 1,843 yards and another 17 scores.
That consistency has helped Jones climb the all-time leaderboards. As it stands now, Jones is currently third all-time in career rushing yards for the Packers, sitting behind Jim Taylor and Ahman Green.
Jones will need another 3,000 rushing yards to get near either of those names. However, what once seemed impossible for Jones is now looking realistic if the 28-year-old is able to stay in Green Bay for a few more seasons.