Aaron Jones had a break out year in 2019, rushing for over 1,000 yards as he led the league in rushing touchdowns. As his rookie contract nears its end, the Packers are left with the question of whether they should offer him a new contract or not. Here, we will detail three reasons why the Packers should let Aaron Jones walk.
The Law of Averages Is Against Him
Aaron Jones has completed three seasons as a NFL running back. With that length of service, he has already surpassed the average length of a career for NFL backs: 2.57 years. On average, NFL running backs have the shortest careers of any position, narrowly beating out wide receivers (2.81 years). Jones may (or may not) continue to produce for at least a few more years, but the law of averages says his time as a pro may be over before we know it.
Green Bay History Isn’t on His Side Either
Aaron Jones just completed his first complete season as Green Bay’s starting running back. If recent history is any indication, he has, at most, two more productive seasons ahead of him. No NFL player is going to settle for a meager two-year deal following the kind of season Jones had, but the Packers’ history of starting running backs shows that three is a magic number of sorts.
Eddie Lacy had two 1,000+ seasons to start his career (2013 & 2014) and then became less and less productive. He was the starting running back in his third season (2015), but only rushed for 758 yards.
Packer Hall of Famer Dorsey Levens can even be pointed to as evidence to the three-year rule. Levens was the Packers starting running back in 1995, 1997, and 1999. He made a Pro Bowl in 1997 and rushed for over 1,000 yards twice. In the remainder of his eight seasons with the Packers, he was the back up running back. He is a Packers legend and played a monumental role in them making it Super Bowl XXXI. Regardless, his career was probably prolonged by being a second-string player for most of his time with the Packers.
A more recent example than Levens is Ryan Grant. Grant exploded on the scene in 2007, rushing for 956 yards in 15 games (7 starts). He became the Packers premier back and rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009. However, he decline after that. An injury kept him out of all but one game in 2010. In 2011, he was given the starting job back. He rewarded the Packers’ faith in him with 559 rushing yards in 15 games (14 starts). He was out of football after 2012.
The line outlier of the three-year rule is Ahman Green. Green, the Packers’ all-time leading rusher, was the starting running back for six seasons. In each of those seasons, Green rushed for over 1,000 yards.
Could Jones be the next Ahman Green? It’s possible, but not likely.
Other Financial Needs
If the Packers have shown anything in the past, it is that their offense under Aaron Rodgers can be successful with a stop-gap running back. Rodgers was able to lead the Packers to the Super Bowl with Brandon Jackson as the Packers starting running back. In 2012, Cedric Benson was the Packers starting running back to start the season.
The Packers notoriously do not have much salary cap room. Unfortunately, they have several needs that should supersede signing Jones. These needs include wide receiver, offensive line, middle linebacker, and defensive line. All of these positions need to be given priority over Jones’ contract.
Aaron Jones is a dynamic player with a lot of talent. However, given the league average for running back career length, the Packers’ own history of short-lived starting backs, and the Packers’ other needs, the Packers should let Jones walk unless he is willing sign for very cheap.