Packer running back Aaron Jones will remain Packers running back Aaron Jones, thanks to a four-year, $48 million deal with a $13 million signing bonus.
His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, announced the deal and added this: “We anticipated bigger offers in free agency but Aaron wanted to stay with the Packers.”
Some would say there’s no way to know whether there would be bigger offers in free agency, because the legal tampering period doesn’t commence until Monday at noon ET. The reality, however, is that agents know what else is out there, because illegal tampering always happens.
It’s possible, if not likely, that Jones took Green Bay’s offer now because the Packers made it clear that, once the window opens for striking unofficial deals on Monday, they’d spend that money on another running back and/or on players at other positions. Thus, Jones and Rosenhaus aren’t guessing on what else may have been available before taking Green Bay’s offer. Surely, they knew.
The question then becomes whether it’s true that other teams would have made “bigger offers.” In an industry rife with prevarication (periodic SAT word alert), there’s nothing wrong with an unprovable white lie. No one is going to be able to disprove it, and few will even care.
If it’s true, however, it’s a break from generally-accepted NFL precedent. Star running backs usually get big money only from their current teams. When star running backs hit the market, they rarely get huge money elsewhere.
One noteworthy exception is Le’Veon Bell, who got $27 million guaranteed over two years from the Jets in 2019. That was widely regarded as a mistake by former Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan — one that was compounded by the fact that the next team on the list was in the range of $8 million annually.
It also will be interesting to see the full breakdown of the Jones deal. While $13 million in the form of a signing bonus is solid, the full structure will reveal plenty. Most likely, it’s a two-year deal with an annual team-held option for the balance.
Of course, that’s what it is for most if not all running back deals. Some, like the deal paid by the Cowboys to running back Ezekiel Elliott contract in 2019, have rolling guarantees that make it hard to pull the plug after two years.
As annual average goes, Jones is tied with Bengals running back Joe Mixon for sixth place, behind Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey ($16 million), Elliott ($15 million), Saints running back Alvin Kamara ($15 million), Vikings running back Dalvin Cook ($12.6 million), and Titans running back Derrick Henry ($12.5 million).
Like always, the devil resides in the details of these deals. For example, Kamara’s contract has a fat back end that gets the average to $15 million annually. Whether and to what extent the Jones contract has any such devices remains to be seen. Whether anyone else was ever going to offer him more will never be known.