Change Is Coming to the Packers Running Back Room

Change is coming to the Green Bay Packers roster at running back this offseason. According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, GM Brian Gutekunst is trying to reduce the cap hit of one of the team’s top running backs while he is willing to let another one hit the free agent market.

This week at the scouting combine, Gutekunst reportedly met with Aaron Jones’ agent to discuss ways the team could restructure the former UTEP star’s contract to reduce his 2024 cap hit to a more acceptable level. Presently, Jones will carry a cap hit of a little more than $17.5 million. Of that number, $11.1 million is base salary.

Jones remains a dynamic and effective runner when he’s healthy. He gained more than 100 yards rushing in each of the team’s final five games of the season which included two postseason games. The Packers won four of them and nearly pulled off an upset in the other.

Because of his cutback ability and speed, Jones is a home run threat. He is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and reliable pass blocker. That combination of talents makes him an ideal fit for Matt LaFleur’s offense.

Jones’ very presence in the offense forces defenses to account for him either as a runner or receiver. That can help open up things for other players like quarterback Jordan Love and his young and talented receivers and tight ends.

But there are issues. Jones is 29 and will turn 30 in December. That’s old for an NFL running back. In addition, he struggled to stay healthy last season. Jones missed six games and was on a strict play count in many others. In fact, after suffering an injury in the season opener against the Bears, Jones was not fully healthy again until his late season run.

At 5’9” and 208 pounds, Jones does not have great size. Throughout his career, he was at his most effective when his touches were kept below a certain number. In fact, one of the reasons he may have been on such a tear late in the season is because he didn’t get as many touches earlier in the year and his body was not as worn down by contact.

The Packers definitely want Jones back, but can they agree on a way to reduce his 2024 cap hit to make that happen?

The team’s RB2 for the past three seasons has been A.J. Dillon. But according to the same report, the Packers are not likely to re-sign the former Boston College star. Dillon’s rookie contract expires later this month and if the Packers don’t sign him, he will be an unrestricted free agent.

Dillon’s most productive season came in 2021 when he gained 803 rushing yards and averaged 4.3-yards per carry. Each year since then, his output has gone down. He gained 770 yards in 2022 followed by 613 yards last season. His average yards per carry went down to 4.1 in 2022 and just 3.4 in 2023.

While Dillon has been a good Packer on and off the field, he struggled to be the number one back when Jones was injured this season. The Packers know they can find a less expensive and younger alternative to be their second running back. They are hoping that the new runner will become the heir apparent to Jones once he does actually slow down or retire.

The Packers still have Emanuel Wilson on the roster. The undrafted free agent from Fort Valley State played in only seven games due to injury and carried just 14 times. Wilson showed promise during the preseason and will fight for a bigger role on the team in 2024.

Look for Gutekunst to add at least one running back in the draft. Running backs are usually able to contribute faster than many other positions in the NFL. The Packers are hoping the new addition can rotate with Jones this year to make sure the veteran isn’t overworked over the course of the season.

Either way, changes are coming to the Green Bay running back room in 2024. That is a part of pro football where change is one of the few constants.

 

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5 points
 

Comments (41)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
jont's picture

March 02, 2024 at 12:24 pm

I enjoy reading the essays and comments on draft prospects. I am learning a lot about players I do not know.

So what do you think about Braelon Allen for the Packers?

I've only seen in a few Badger games and don't know about other options, but to me he looks like a real player, I'm shocked to learn he's only 20, and in an article on Packer Wire he comes off as a serious kid already working hard to get into and succeed in the NFL.

Third round? Will he last that long?

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egbertsouse's picture

March 02, 2024 at 12:55 pm

They should stay away from Allen. He’s Ron Dayne 2.0. He runs too high and takes too many hits. Had injury issues in college which will escalate when facing bigger, faster NFL players. He may only be 20 but he’s been playing college football since he was 17 so he has a lot of mileage on those legs.

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Turophile's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:03 pm

There is RB Trey Benson. He has decent size and very good speed. Problem is, he is likely the first RB off the board, so you need to spend a 2nd rounder on him. Worse, he has a considerable injury history. I'd rather pass on that despite his talent.

I'd actually rather roll the dice with Jonathon Brooks, who tore his ACL last November but is not injury ridden and doesn't have that much tread on his tires. If he never had the ACL he would be comfortably the first RB taken.

Jaylen Wright isn't a bruiser (5'10", 210, 4.31) but he is FAST. He is not a yards after contact monster but his speed and low pad level gets him extra. A good complementary back. He can catch, but isn't special in that area. Could develop into a high quality RB.

His is not a run blocker (ranked 59%), but his rushing and tackle-breaking grades are 93% and 94%. Estimated draft area round 3 or 4.

A nice sleeper is (Wisconsin, then Louisville), RB Isaac Guerendo (6'0", 221, 4.33). Size, great speed, good hands when catching passes, good ball security, can pick up blitzes and anchor - what's not to like. Should be a later draft pick. Perhaps my favourite bang-for-your-buck player. Beware, he might be a late riser as teams shy away from more injury prone guys. I'd guess round 5.

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PhantomII's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:04 pm

Allen looks like he lacks top end speed...He does not show out above Brooks (Texas) / Benson as a bigger RB. He's a tier or 2 below them.

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SSJ's picture

March 03, 2024 at 02:59 pm

Allen has lost 10 pounds since the end of the season. His problem is he is slow. Did not run the 40 at the combine. He will probably run it at Wisconsin’s pro day.

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Jeff Hayes's picture

March 02, 2024 at 12:44 pm

Only way Jones stays a Packer is if he takes a pay cut that will pay him 4 to 6 million tops. If not then he will be gone, It sucks but this is the nature of the business. There's a few RB's in the draft they could target like Braelon Allen or Audric Estime who I feel could be drafted and he is a solid RB

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Z-Smith's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:29 pm

No chance they get rid of Aaron Jones with the cap rise and his leadership qualities. They're probably going to extend him or add some void years to his contract to reduce this year's hit.

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dblbogey's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:45 pm

Jones took a pay cut last year. He's an important part of the team, a team guy, respected by the players, and a guy the Packers need to treat properly. Even if he misses 6 games, he's still a top 5 back in this league for 11 games, and we have nothing proven behind him. Work it out, treat him right, keep the man. As for AJ, he's a great guy but nothing special. I'd let him walk, sign him cheap if he can't do better elsewhere. I was hoping to draft a quality #2 back, but it appears to be a down year for RB's. Of course, Jones was a 5th round pick, maybe we take 2 RB's and get lucky with 1.

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SSJ's picture

March 03, 2024 at 03:01 pm

Estime ran a 4.71 forty. That’s really slow for a running back. I don’t want to see him in the green and gold.

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PhantomII's picture

March 02, 2024 at 01:21 pm

A. Jones is a Special RB....I think rework his contract and a year or 2 extension with major health/ game play incentives. I watched all the so-called 2024 NFL top 10 draft RB clips. Only one close to Jones abilities and special traits is Jaylen Wright from (Tenn). So like I said rework Jones and draft Wright as a long term replacement and W. Shipley (Clemson) pretty tough fella. Johnathon Brooks (Texas) pretty good all around but coming off injury. Trey Benson is also pretty good RB2 for now. I think we should pick any 2 of these mentioned unless someone pulls out a Jonesesque type player from a small school for his type.

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LeotisHarris's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:23 pm

There's gonna have to be a different man... look out, you rock 'n' rollers!

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TKWorldWide's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:52 pm

Hopefully Jones don’t want to be a richer man

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LeotisHarris's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:54 pm

::fistbump::

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Tundraboy's picture

March 02, 2024 at 05:17 pm

Ccc Changes! But Aaron's not one of them.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:24 pm

It seems that the Packers are taking the pay-for-play approach with A. J. He'll still be well-paid but not excessively - which is strictly good business for the Packers. I think that both sides will come to an agreement. As for Dillon - 80% of NFL running backs are paid 2M/yr. and less - which is the category where I would place him. His odometer is still not very high, not old and has been productive at times. My offer to him would be between 1.5 - 2M per year X 3 years.

So my RB plan for this season would be:
- Re-structure A. Jones contract
- Re-sign Dillon approximately 1.75M per year X 3 years.
- Draft Isaac Guerendo (my draft crush) or Jaylen Wright or Trey Benson or Marshawn Lloyd ...
- Draft another couple UDFA's

Then toss in Wilson and Taylor - play all during OTAs and Training Camp - see the final result.

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TKWorldWide's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:03 pm

You know it’s impossible to draft any UDFA’s, right?

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Alberta_Packer's picture

March 02, 2024 at 05:24 pm

Right - meant sign.

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TKWorldWide's picture

March 02, 2024 at 06:06 pm

I know. Just messing with ya.

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Duneslick's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:34 pm

Guerendo was hurt and missed most of the games in his college career as a backup. Why would GB want waste a draft pick on him. UFDA maybe

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Alberta_Packer's picture

March 02, 2024 at 05:33 pm

Most of his injuries were during the early part of his career. He's been more available since his transfer to Louisville. No way he's an UDFA. With 4.33 40 time - good size, good receiver, adequate pass pro - he won't make it after the 5th round.

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Rhah's picture

March 02, 2024 at 05:07 pm

I really like your plan. Dillon does such a good job with blitz pick up, catching the ball, etc. I think he is a nice backup, but not a great runner. With that said, it's imperative to draft a Jones replacement.

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PackyCheese500's picture

March 02, 2024 at 10:56 pm

I would support drafting Lloyd if he wasn't a fumble machine (10 in the last 3 years). Benson has concerning injury history. I like Guerendo a lot.

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Slim11's picture

March 03, 2024 at 08:26 am

I like your thoughts here.

Unfortunately, for the Packers, Jones’ agent is Drew Rosenhaus. He has a bad history with the Packers front office going back to Javon Walker and Najeh Davenport. I am not so sure there will be a renegotiated contract for Jones before the free agent frenzy begins.

Unlike AJ Dillon, there are some teams out there who might take a chance on Jones.

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Kevin Carpenter's picture

March 02, 2024 at 02:38 pm

I can definitely see the Packers doubling up on at least two of the following; S, RB, CB and possibly even LB depending on where the guys they want fall and how their board shakes down.

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Bitternotsour's picture

March 02, 2024 at 03:01 pm

Wilson is ready to tote the rock. Younger, faster, cheaper. The offense will make him a star.

When I suggested 2 weeks ago that Jones was a potential cut people freaked out. Welcome to the future.

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PhantomII's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:13 pm

LOL....Explosive RB's are not easily replaced...Matter of FACT...They are only replaced by OTHER Explosive RB's and I see none of that from Wilson or anyone else on our Roster at RB. He's not remotely faster. A. Jones top 4-5 RB ALL-TIME Yards Per Carry....That means out of hundreds of RB's since NFL began OUR RB Aaron Jones is top 5 in this statistic. We are ready to go to the super bowl...letting our RB1 go make a top NFL team better would be dumb.

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Bitternotsour's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:36 pm

I'm sorry, did you miss last preseason. Wilson was absolutely explosive.
Emanuel Wilson
Att Yds Avg YPG Lg TD
38 223 5.87 31.9 80t 2

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PhantomII's picture

March 02, 2024 at 07:24 pm

Pre-season is draft picks and UDFA's trying to fit in. He did not do much in "THE NFL". I'm not bitter or sour...but, I'm not stupid either. Jones gives us the best chance to get to where we want to go. I like Jalen Wright from (Tenn) as Jones type a little bigger and faster and Shipley from Clemson. Dillon replacement is: Benson and Brooks from Texas when he's healed up. Wilson may get some work, but I'd take all of those over him and Jones has a little in the tank especially if we get a couple of those picks to take Dillons share of reps. GPG

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Bitternotsour's picture

March 02, 2024 at 10:43 pm

Don't sell yourself short kid.

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Packerpasty's picture

March 03, 2024 at 11:10 am

Wilson's a career backup...didnt show much to me in the reg season...did much of the same things Dillon does, misses the cut back hole, reads the line wrong, not instinctive like Jones at all...

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Tundraboy's picture

March 02, 2024 at 05:20 pm

I agree with Wilson, but it will be with Jones.

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The_Baloney_Stops_Here's picture

March 04, 2024 at 07:32 am

Theres a 0% chance go into the season banking on an undrafted player with 14 career carries who couldnt stay healthy last year.

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Wilment's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:38 pm

I think its pretty simple, when jones was healthy, Love and the offense were way better. Find a way to keep him in house. He is a threat in the air and on the ground, and by all accounts, a good citizen Dillon is a good guy, but he is missing something in his game the past two years, missing the little bit of shiftiness.to get that extra yard or two on a handoff. Gopackgo!

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CanPackFan's picture

March 02, 2024 at 04:48 pm

At 17.1, yes, he's too expensive. But remember, about 6 Mil of that was was restructure. So, really, that 6 Mil is owed to him from previous years.

But the reality is that he's turning 30. And while he looked great during the last 5 games, it was because he was fresh as was pointed out. I like Jones but his injury time and age is serious now. Maybe a contract that is more incentive based?

I'd love to see him back but not at that crushing a number. His agent likely knows that as well. And is there a team out there willing to pay him 10 or 11 mil? Likely not. Add 1 or 2 void years, cut 2 Mil off the top (minimum) and maybe its the right contract for all parties? GPG

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PackyCheese500's picture

March 02, 2024 at 07:43 pm

Jones will be back. It's the smartest thing for both the Packers and Jones. But the Packers need to start looking for the future at RB.
I don't think the Packers should pick a RB above the 3rd round (we saw how that turned out with Dillon last time). I would select 2-3 guys on day 3 and have them compete in training camp. Remember, Jones himself was a day 3 pick.
Some shiftier guys I like are Emani Bailey of TCU and George Holani of Boise St, and for bigger guys I like Isaiah Davis of South Dakota St. and Jase McClellan of Alabama. Guerendo would have been my #1 choice of RB on day 3, but after his workout, I'd be surprised if he made it to the Packers' 3rd rounders.

Also, with all these cap moves, I wonder if the Packers are clearing space for a big free agent signing? I wonder if Gutey goes on a 2019-like spending spree. Personally, Xavier McKinney of the Giants (S) and Willie Gay of the Chiefs (LB) would be my top choices of FAs.

2 points
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4thand10's picture

March 02, 2024 at 08:29 pm

Trey Benson and take a flyer out on tyrone taylor jr or Ray Davis. Do a classic BG move and draft em in bunches. But who knows, So many 4.4s LBs coming out in this draft . Those who watch tape on Dillon…. he commands a 7-8 man box, I really don’t want to see him go to a team with a better OL . We’ve got a good team, but again …many needs …RG, LBs, Saftey and I view RB as a need given Jones injury history. I was sick for yrs watching Rodgers without much of a running game while guys like Brady and Manning had cadillac RBs their entire careers.

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Bitternotsour's picture

March 02, 2024 at 10:46 pm

I can't think of a Cadillac running back that Brady had. He had a couple of tight ends that were Caddy's, he had Randy Moss for a minute or two, but running backs that were dominant, not in my memory. Admittedly, Manning had a great running back.

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4thand10's picture

March 04, 2024 at 07:32 pm

Oh no…
Only Corey Dillion, James White , Lagarrette Blount,Deon Lewis…and the list gets longer..

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Rebecca's picture

March 03, 2024 at 08:17 pm

Jones injury history was better than Davante Adams during 2017-2022. Jones split time with AJ Dillon in 2021-22. Jones has had some knee injuries but no surgery and only lost a game or two before 2023. He still has the wheels, smarts and attitude. I don’t see the 49’s letting Christian McCaffrey go and he’s as old as Jones. Keep your play makers and roll em’.

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Bitternotsour's picture

March 03, 2024 at 11:15 pm

well, Christian McCaffrey is the same age as Aaron Jones if you subtract 2 from Aaron Jones age.

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golfpacker1's picture

March 02, 2024 at 09:24 pm

There were some really surprising 40 times run at the combine today. Some RBs stayed near the top like , Benson, Wright, and Lloyd. Others like Irving, Estime, Dillon Johnson, and Corum were slower and will drop. Others like Holani, Ray Davis, and Cody Schrader ran just about as expected. Alot of the RBs didn't run at all. It could work to our advantage because some of the slower timed backs that are ranked top 10, didn't suddenly lose all their talent and speed, so we might get them later.

The absolute star RB of the combine was Isaac Guerendo, 6'1 220 lbs and ran a legitimate 4.33 forty. I would be tempted to take him at #91 or early 4th round if we could trade back. His highlights and stats are good. He will just get better and better.

We still have a lot of great options and Braelon Allen should be one of them. Yes, he is 20 years old. No, he doesn't have a ton of mileage on him. Yes, he is 6'2 240lbs, he has rushing talent, he has power, supposedly runs 4.5, can block, and he catches well. And no serious injury history like torn ACLs.

2 points
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