Stephen Holder of ESPN reported on Wednesday, August 30, that the Packers “were in talks” about a deal for the All-Pro running back and “had legitimate interest in trading” for Taylor. The timing of that report was less than fortuitous for Gutekunst, who conducted a press conference later the same day.
Reporters asked Gutekunst about the team’s interest in Taylor, as well as what that meant for A.J. Dillon — the Packers No. 2 running back entering his fourth season and a contract year in Green Bay in 2023. The exchange begins around the 9:45 mark in the video linked below.
“I can’t talk about players on other teams,” Gutekunst said. “We try to be in every conversation. Any time we have good players available to us, we’d like to make the Green Bay Packers better and we’ll look at those opportunities. That’s about what I got to say about that.”
Packers Say A.J. Dillon’s Future Secure, Sidestep Notion that Jonathan Taylor Interest Suggests Otherwise
The reporter pressed Gutekunst about Dillon’s mindset after news of Green Bay’s interest in Taylor, which brought up certain implications about how the franchise views its backup running back.
“A.J.’s a part of this team, and he was going to be regardless. Again, there’s a lot of conversations [where] we are used, at times, for leverage as well,” Gutekunst said. “We aren’t doing what we’re supposed to be doing if we’re not investigating these things — at least listening to things. It’s just the nature of the world now. There’s all kinds of things out there. Some are true, some aren’t.”
Finally, Gutekunst was asked whether he was upset about the leak and the source from whom it might have come.
“I don’t know how these things get out there. I don’t particularly care, either,” Gutekunst responded. “We have conversations about players throughout the National Football League, players on our team with other teams, all the time. People ask about our guys all the time. That’s just part of it. I can’t be worried about what our players think every time somebody calls and asks us because it might get out in the media. Not really too concerned with that.”
A.J. Dillon’s Price May Push Packers Out of Contention for RB in 2024
Green Bay selected Dillon out of Boston College with the No. 62 overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. He is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, valued at approximately $5.3 million in total. Unless the Packers decide to use the franchise tag on the RB next offseason, Dillon will hit unrestricted free agency come March 2024.
He has been a solid contributor for the Packers, but like Alexander Mattison of the Minnesota Vikings, the running back will likely be looking for a starting job and the kind of second NFL contract that goes along with it.
On the one hand, Green Bay has shown a willingness to pay for running backs during a time in the league when the position is declining in value. The team inked Aaron Jones to a four-year, $48 million deal in 2021, though Jones did agree to a $5 million pay cut ahead of this season.
Given the interest in Taylor, who Mike Jones of The Athletic reported is seeking a multiyear extension in the range of $14 million to $15 million annually, it appears the Packers are doubling down on their stance on running backs.
However, that the franchise was looking at a young rusher who would command a high salary for years to come raises legitimate questions about how Green Bay actually feels about Dillon, and the contract they must expect it will take to bring him back in 2024 and beyond.
But that wasn’t the tune Gutekunst was humming Wednesday.
“We have a great running back room. We’re really excited about it. I think they’re a strength of our football team,” Gutekunst said. “We have a lot of conversations. If people perceive that it’s one thing or another, I can’t control that.”
Dillon has produced an average of 4.3 yards per carry on 419 rushing attempts during his three-year NFL career. He has amassed 1,815 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 64 receptions for 540 yards and two scores, per Pro Football Reference.