Packers chose Josh Jacobs over Aaron Jones. Why?

Photo of Josh Jacobs choose by packers over Aaron Jones.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Packers unexpectedly shifted their focus from renegotiating Aaron Jones‘s contract to pursuing free agent Josh Jacobs after talks with Jones stalled due to salary negotiations. By Monday afternoon, they made a significant decision by signing Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million contract.

This move was one of the most remarkable changes in recent team history, akin to the transition from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love last year. Just six weeks earlier, Packers’ General Manager Brian Gutekunst had expressed confidence in keeping Jones.

However, Jones was slated to earn $12 million in 2024, with a salary cap hit exceeding $17 million, prompting the team to request a significant reduction in his salary, following a $5 million pay cut he agreed to the previous year.

However, come Friday, Jones and his representative, Drew Rosenhaus, conveyed to Gutekunst and Russ Ball, the team’s contract specialist, their reluctance to accept a pay reduction as significant as the one proposed by the Green Bay Packers.

To prevent Jones from lingering in uncertainty over the weekend, the Packers essentially indicated to him that they would have to explore alternative avenues.

Despite having the option to retain Jones until Wednesday, the start of the new league year when contracts become officially executable, they opted not to prolong the situation. They wanted to avoid the risk of Jones reconsidering the pay cut, only for the Packers to then inform him that the initial offer was no longer valid.

Due to his lengthy history of allegiance to the team and the high regard he holds among both the organization and its fans, the Packers chose to release Jones on Monday, allowing him to swiftly explore options with other teams. By Tuesday morning, he had secured a deal with the Minnesota Vikings for one year, valued at $7 million, exceeding the Packers’ final offer by about $1 million.

This decision carried some risk, especially given the possibility of the Jacobs deal falling through before Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, the official time when free agents can formalize contracts with new teams.

In a statement released by the team on Monday, Gutekunst described parting ways with Jones as “one of the most difficult decisions we’ve encountered during my time with the Packers, and not one taken lightly.” He underscored Jones’s significant contributions on the field and in the locker room, emphasizing his esteemed status as one of the community’s most beloved players.

Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur likely favored Jacobs partly due to his age of 26, which is three years younger than Jones, potentially ensuring stability in the starting running back role for the next three to four years. Re-signing Jones, at the age of 29, would have likely signaled his final season in Green Bay.

While Jacobs may lack the versatility to be utilized in the slot or as an outside receiver, roles occasionally assigned to Jones by LaFleur, the Packers have confidence in Jacobs’ diverse skills as both a runner and receiver, which they consider to be dynamic. Regarding playing style, the Packers draw parallels between Jacobs and Eddie Lacy during his prime—a powerful runner whom defenders are reluctant to tackle in open space.

The Packers will require the acquisition of at least one more running back, whether through free agency or the draft, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive or early-round selection. AJ Dillon, who served as Jones’ understudy for the past four years, is poised to become a free agent and is likely to sign with another team. They still retain Emanuel Wilson, who received a qualifying tender offer as an exclusive rights free agent on Monday.

The precise amount spent by Gutekunst and Ball on Monday won’t be disclosed until the structure of all deals is revealed, but it’s evident that it represents their most significant spending spree since the onset of free agency in 2019, during which they spent $182 million within 24 hours by signing Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, and Billy Turner.

In addition to Jacobs, the Packers also finalized an agreement with former Giants safety Xavier McKinney on a four-year, $68 million contract. Similar to the Raiders, the Giants endeavored to retain McKinney, but the Packers outbid them.

McKinney emerged as their primary target after the Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on Antoine Winfield Jr. To accommodate Jacobs and McKinney under the salary cap, the Packers released left tackle David Bakhtiari on Monday and are scheduled to release linebacker De’Vondre Campbell on Wednesday.

Although Gutekunst may still have further strategies in free agency, the majority of his work was completed on Monday.


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