The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Jones agreed that the franchise’s third all-time leading rusher would take a pay cut in order to remain with the team in 2023. While that is great news for the offense, and new starting quarterback Jordan Love especially, it does (once again) call his future will the team into question.
The fact of the matter is that running backs have seen their value go down all throughout the NFL. This can be seen in how they have seen their franchise tag value go down since 2015:
The cost to franchise tag top running backs is just so low for teams to pass up. Consider:
QB tag in 2015 was $18.5m. Now $32.4m.
WR tag in 2015 was $12.8m. Now $19.7m.
RB tag in 2015 cost $10.9m. Now $10.1m!!!
While all other tag prices have risen… the RB tag has gone DOWN.
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) July 17, 2023
So far this offseason, three star running backs have been tagged by their teams: Saquon Barkley (New York Giants), Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders), Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys). The situation has led many running backs to publicly question NFL teams and how they are viewed by their teams.
Green Bay Packers Running Back Aaron Jones Joins Zoom Call Led by Austin Eckler
According to multiple reports, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Eckler hosted a Zoom meeting that was attended by several high-profile NFL running backs: Jones, Christian McCaffery, Najee Harris, J.K. Dobbins, Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Barkley, Jacobs, Pollard, and Joe Mixon.
According to NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, the idea of “holding in” by exaggerating injuries and refusing to “play through them” was brought up:
“Per multiple sources, the issue of holding in via the embellishment/exaggeration/fabrications of injuries (suggested earlier this week in an interview by NFLPA president JC Tretter) was raised during Saturday night’s call.”
Former Packers center, JC Tretter, is the NFL Players Association president, and when asked about the idea, said that players need to create as much leverage as they can:
“You need to try to create as much leverage as you possibly can…”
— Ross Tucker Podcast (@RossTuckerPod) July 18, 2023
As Florio notes, though, there is a feeling that this idea would do more harm than good to running backs in contract disputes:
“As one source put it, the consensus was that this can’t work for running backs, since it feeds into the narrative that they’re prone to injury. (It also gives players lower on the depth chart a chance to prove that, dollar for dollar, they represent a better value than the ‘injured’ players they are replacing.)”
The problem for the running backs, too, is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and NFLPA has years to go before it is up for renegotiation. Their agents will need to address the issue with NFL clubs, but the agents were not included in the Zoom meeting.
Would Aaron Jones Fake an Injury During Contract Negotiations?
The Packers and Jones will not be discussing a new contract this season as he is already under contract for 2024. As mentioned, though, whether or not he plays for Green Bay next year is still in question.
Of course, the two sides could work something out, but given recent events in the running back market as a whole, it is hard to see Jones setting the market back more by taking another pay cut. He will want to make his agreed upon salary in 2024, but Green Bay likely will not be willing to pay it.
In short, Packers fans should enjoy one of the best running backs in franchise history while he is still here, because current events may mean he will be playing elsewhere in 2024.