Welcome to Transaction Implication: Aaron Jones Contract! The Transaction Implication is an offseason PlayerProfiler series that focuses on real-life NFL transactions to better understand the fantasy football implications of the move and properly formulate a plan of action in dynasty leagues. This is a special edition of Transaction Implication because Aaron Jones was a previous subject of this series two years ago.
As the 2023 NFL season approaches, many eyes are on Green Bay Packers running back Jones. He signed a four-year contract worth $48 million, with $20 million guaranteed in 2021, making him one of the highest-paid running backs in the league. Jones carries a $20.0M cap hit for the 2023 season. This is the highest cap hit among running backs.
The Packers enter the 2023 off-season $17.5M OVER the salary cap. There is also uncertainty at the quarterback situation. Aaron Rodgers, the team’s current starting quarterback, has been embroiled in a high-profile feud with the team’s management. As a result, it’s unclear whether he’ll return for the 2023 season. Jones’ future has been called into question by fans and media because of this. However, the Packers made their intentions clear. Whether or not Rodgers is a member of the Packers, Jones WILL be a part of the team’s plan moving forward.
Aaron Jones’ Restructured Contract
Going back to Jones’ original contract signed into 2021, I predicted Jones would be a restructure candidate and not a cut candidate when analyzing the salary cap situation of the Green Bay Packers. The golden rule of NFL transactions is this: teams NEVER cut productive players. A restructure saved up to $10.9M in cap space this season. I correctly predicted this, and the Packers’ front office did a marvelous job with this negotiation.
Instead, the Packers were able to convince Jones to accept a $5M pay cut and converted $8.52M of nonguaranteed money into a guaranteed signing bonus and added a void year to his contract. In English, he’s under contract through 2027, and the $8.52M signing bonus is spread out across the remaining five years of his contract. This is despite his contract voiding after the 2024 season. The Packers cleared $11.8M in cap space. This almost got them under the cap with a single move.
He Was NEVER Getting Cut
Remember, productive players, do NOT get cut by NFL teams. The Packers’ general manager, Brian Guntekunst, has been with Green Bay since 2018. 2018 marked the season that Aaron Jones took over as the primary running back.
Jones is known for his explosive running style and quick acceleration. These skills allow him to hit gaps in the defense and make big plays. In 2022, Jones was top-15 in Yards Per Touch, Juke Rate, Breakaway Run Rate, and Yards Created Per Game.
He is also a threat in the passing game, with excellent hands and route-running ability. Jones was often used as a check-down option for his quarterbacks and can also line up in the slot or out wide as a receiver. He was No. 2 among running backs in Out Wide Routes (45) and No. 5 in Slot Routes (21). These receiving skills made him a valuable asset in the Packers’ offense, as they used him in a variety of ways to keep the defense guessing.
Aaron Jones’ Future
Jones turns 29 during the 2023 season, which is often considered the age when running backs begin to decline. While Jones has shown no signs of slowing down yet, it’s still a possibility that his production decreases as he gets older. Fortunately for Jones, he won’t turn 29 until December 2nd.
If Jones’ production falls off a cliff in 2023, the Packers can still move on from him in 2024, despite his $17.7M cap hit currently being the largest among running backs in 2024. Cutting him next offseason would clear $5.3M, or if he’s made a Post-June 1st Cut, he would save $12.0M on June 2nd.
What About A.J. Dillon?
Poor A.J. Dillon fans. THIS was supposed to be the season he would finally be the primary back in Green Bay. The soon-to-be 25-year-old running back is entering the last season of his contract, and a long-term future with the Packers appears to be unlikely.
Dillon has seen his Yards Per Touch decrease in each of his three NFL seasons and his Opportunity Share has plateaued. It’s fair to wonder if the Packers, who prepared for Aaron Jones‘ decline when they drafted Dillon in 2020, may opt to change course and move on from Dillon via trade this offseason or let him walk next offseason. They could then draft a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft as the heir to Jones.
Dynasty Moves to Make
If you are not contending in dynasty this upcoming season, then you need to trade Aaron Jones THIS offseason. On Underdog, Jones is RB20 in their NFL 2023 Pre-Draft Best Ball rankings, despite finishing as RB11 in PPG in 2022. This is because people were afraid of the Packers moving on from Jones. Now, Jones’ value is going to see a spike.
We will see a massive shift in the opposite direction with Jones since we know with certainty where he’ll be in 2023. Jones has only played two full seasons in his six-year career, however, mostly he’s played in most games. If you’re rebuilding and you have Jones, then you’re gambling with your asset each week.
A.J. Dillon is a little tricky right now. The best course of action is to hold if you have him. He’s going to leak Lifetime Value with this news, so selling right now is not optimal. If presented with a buy-low opportunity on Dillon, take it! In back-to-back seasons, Dillon has had 180+ carries and seven touchdowns and is still young. His situation hasn’t changed, only the public perception held out hope the Packers would move on from Jones.
- The Green Bay Packers maximized the amount of cap space saved by restructuring Jones’ contract.
- The restructure also allowed the Packers to retain Jones and not add an additional hole to the roster to be filled.
- The Packers still have roster flexibility. If Jones’ production declines next season in his age-29 season, the team can STILL move on from him.
- Dillon is not in the long-term plans for the Green Bay Packers.