Packers Could Part Ways With $5 Million Fan-Favorite After 4 Seasons

Matt LaFleur, Packers

Getty Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers.

Running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have spent the last four years together with the Green Bay Packers, though one or both could be on the way out come season’s end.

Matt Schneidman of The Athletic authored a mailbag on Thursday, December 7, in which he discussed the futures of both players. Based on Schneidman’s answers, Dillon is more replaceable and thus less likely to be back in green and gold in 2024.

Dillon has proven to be a solid No. 2 running back, but he’s not quite your prototypical feature back. The Packers can find a new No. 2 for cheaper through the draft and potentially have that guy sit behind Jones on the depth chart for a year before taking over lead-back duties in 2025.

Dillon has certainly looked better lately compared to early in the season, but he might have had to establish himself as a bonafide No. 1 back to earn a contract extension and that hasn’t, and won’t, happen.

There remains the possibility, however, that the Packers move on from Jones, re-sign Dillon to a one-year deal and draft someone early to sit behind or share carries with Dillon. But Dillon and his camp might want a multiyear deal, which the Packers might not be willing to give.

AJ Dillon Has Done Less to Prove Value to Packers than Aaron Jones

A.J. Dillon, Packers

GettyRunning back AJ Dillon of the Green Bay Packers.

In Dillon’s case, the Packers must gauge how much they’d have to pay and for how long against the type of production they can reasonably expect from the RB. That value judgment must be set against the exact same equation for rookies Green Bay could acquire in the mid- or late-rounds of the 2024 NFL draft.

For Jones, the issue is more about how much the Packers can save by cutting or trading him, how much his absence would truly hurt the run game given his age and recent injury concerns, and where else the team might be able to use the money it could save on Jones to improve the roster elsewhere.

Jones has one year remaining on his contract after this season and cutting or trading him before June 1 would free up a shade less than $5 million in cap space. He also just turned 29, which is like 85 normal human years in running back years.

Through 12 games this season, he’s been fully healthy for about two after playing in 62 of a possible 66 regular-season games over the prior four seasons. I’m not sure you just move on from a guy like Jones, an integral part of the organization both on and off the field, because of one injury-riddled season.

Aaron Jones’ Age, Injuries, Cap Number All Potential Issues for Packers

James Robinson Packers News Aaron Jones Injury

GettyGreen Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones.

Schneidman is correct that $5 million in savings may not be worth parting ways with Jones, but there are simple ways the Packers could save more. A post-June 1 cut or trade will save Green Bay almost $11.5 million, per Over The Cap.

If Jones stays on the team all of next season, he will cost the Packers more than $17.7 million against the salary cap. That’s a lot to spend on a player who turns 30 in December 2024, will have seven years of NFL tread on his tires heading into next season and has put up just 414 yards from scrimmage 3 total TDs in seven games played in 2023. The five games that Jones has missed this year are attributable to not one but two injuries — a current knee issue and a hamstring stain early in the campaign.

The only reason Jones is still on the roster is because he agreed to take a $5 million pay cut ahead of this season. As such, his best chance to remain with the team is if the Packers decide to let Dillon go.

Dillon is in a contract year, but hasn’t played like it. He’s gained just 521 rushing yards on a career-worst 3.5 yards per carry, according to Pro Football Reference. Dillon also has just 1 total TD despite playing in all 12 of Green Bay’s contests in 2023, including five starts.

Spotrac projects Dillon’s market value at $3.5 million annually, which might play for one season but which is too much for the Packers to fully guarantee on any kind of multiyear contract moving forward. He is currently on the final year of his $5.3 million rookie deal.

Packers Have Shown Willingness to Go Young on Offense

Brian Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur

GettyGeneral manager Brian Gutekunst (left) of the Green Bay Packers speaks with head coach Matt LaFleur (right) during OTAs in May 2023.

Dillon is far from indispensable and the Packers can find running backs in the draft, so the career backup is not in a good position.

Jones may or may not stick around through 2024, though if the Packers can get anything for him in trade then that asset, plus the cap relief, should be enough incentive to make a deal. In any case, Jones is among the top cap casualty candidates in Green Bay alongside perennially injured left tackle David Bakhtiari.

The Packers have shown a willingness in recent years to part with stars (see: Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams) and also to go young across the board at the offensive skill positions (see: Jordan Love and every pass-catcher on the team in 2023). In other words, Jones and Dillon departing this offseason will not qualify as surprise developments.

General manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur also appear to have each bought themselves more rope heading into 2024 with the team’s recent three-game win streak and subsequent re-entrance into the NFC Playoff picture. That extra leeway should render potentially unpopular moves, such as cutting or trading a beloved veteran like Jones, easier to make.

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