To Tag or Not to Tag: That Is the Question on Aaron Jones

At his press conference on Monday, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst discussed many pressing issues concerning the Packers including the possibility of using the franchise or transition tag on Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones.

Both Jones and Jamaal Williams are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents later this month. That means that unless the Packers find a way to sign one of them, Green Bay will likely be without it’s top two running backs from 2020 when next season gets under way.

Gutekunst explained that using the franchise tag or transition tag on Jones is still a possibility. “We certainly could,” he replied when asked about tagging Jones. “I think it’s something we’re working through. I do think there’s usually better ways to go about it, but if that becomes what is in the best interest of the Packers, I think we’ll do that.”

The Packers have until March 9 to make that decision. If the Packers use a franchise or transition tag on Jones, he will cost the team roughly $8 million in salary in 2021 unless he can reach a long-term deal with the team prior to the start of the 2021 campaign.

The Packers could also still sign Jones and trade him although that is unlikely. If Jones signs elsewhere in free agency, the Packers will receive a compensatory draft pick in 2022 which is estimated to be a fourth round selection. While Green Bay always wants to accumulate assets in the draft, Jones is worth a lot more to the team than an extra day three pick.

There is a risk for both player and team if the Packers use the franchise tag on Jones. It certainly puts the player at risk. Playing on the franchise tag is a one-year deal so if Jones were to get injured, his chances of signing a big free agent contract next season would go down significantly.

Jones is also going to turn 27 next season which means he only has one more chance to sign a significant contract before he is considered “old” for a running back. If Jones reaches free agency, this will likely be the only opportunity he has to cash in big during the brief NFL career of a typical running back.

The Packers would also be spending $8 million on a running back for one season if Jones plays on a one-year, franchise tag deal. Last season, the Packers top three running backs had a total cap hit of a little more than $5.41 million according to spotrac.com. Jamaal Williams had a cap hit of $2.274 million, Jones $2.183 million and A.J. Dillon $961,000.

Jones adds is an excellent fit in the Green Bay offense. His speed and ability to break long runs make him a threat to score any time he touches the football. He led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2019 with 16 and had 11 total touchdowns during the regular season in 2020.

In addition to his ability to run the football, Jones is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught 49 passes in 2019 which was second on the team. Last year, despite missing two games, he caught 47 more passes.

He is also a popular teammate with a great work ethic. Jones worked hard to improve his receiving and pass blocking since his rookie season and it paid off as he has developed into one of the better backs in the game over the last two seasons. For his career, the former UTEP star is averaging a healthy 5.2-yards per rush.

Using the tag would give the Packers some benefits as well. Jones has rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and his return would give the Packers more continuity in their backfield. Dillon was the team’s top ball carrier last season for exactly one game in 2020 and he still hasn’t proven he can carry the load game in and game out at the NFL level. If both Jones and Williams depart the team would also have a lack of depth at running back and the Packers would look to draft another running back and sign a veteran to replenish the talent at the position. They would likely pay less money for those players, but it is also doubtful they could get a running back as good as Jones that way.

The franchise tag would also give Gutekunst a chance to negotiate with Jones on a potential contract extension without the risk of other teams signing him. If they can do that, the Packers could potentially lower Jones’ 2021 cap hit by spreading his signing bonus out over the length of the contract. Keeping a Pro Bowl running back for less than $8 million per year against the cap would be an excellent trick of Gutekunst could pull it off.

The Packers haven’t used the franchise tag much in recent years. Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett was the last player Green Bay tagged and that was back in 2011. But the fact is the Packers are one of the league’s top contenders in the league right now and they realize that the window on winning another Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers will only be available for another two or three years. Keeping Jones would maximize their chances of winning while that window remains open.

Winning championships is the ultimate goal in sports. If tagging Aaron Jones gets the Packers a better chance of winning a Super Bowl in 2021, it’s something the organization should seriously consider this week before the March 9 deadline expires.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

NFL Categories: 
4 points

Comments (24)

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

March 04, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Great summary Gil, No matter what BG does, this is going to be Monday morning Quarterbacks' dream. If he leaves and excels, major screw up. If he's signed to big $, which is what it's going to take, and then gets hurt, look out. If he gets franchised, it sours him and many teammates, doesn't clear cap space and he probably plays differently for the sake of next year's contract. I admire his talent and personal story and wish him the best for life, but I'll give my advice on a Thursday and hope we don't spend big to keep him. GPG

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
GilMartin's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for a spot on comment, mnbadger. It is a tough situation with no perfect answers. The Packers can't afford to overspend on RBs but I don't want to see both Jones and Williams leave if possible. We'll see what happens but as you said, either way, the Monday Morning Quarterbacks will have a field day.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Lphill's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Tag Jones, cut Jackson , Burks , re structure both Smiths , try and sign Dalvin Tomlinson to pair with Clark.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
GilMartin's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:33 pm

That's one way to do it. Jackson and Burks won't save much money but restructuring the Smiths certainly would. Thanks for the comment, Lphill, always good to hear from you.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
splitpea1's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:39 pm

Tag him. He already received a very generous offer from the Packers.

+ REPLY
3 points
5
2
GilMartin's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:39 pm

I think I'm in favor of it too. It's a one-year commitment that way. The issue may be that the player will not be happy about it but we'll see. Thanks for the comment, splitpea1.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

March 04, 2021 at 01:57 pm

Packertown needs to maintain their leverage. He can be given some incentive clauses to protect both parties.

The other side of the coin is the number of good backs showing in the first three rounds. James White is a veteran FA still out there.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
Razer's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:39 pm

Love Aaron Jones but NO to the tag. I'd rather spend the money on the O-line to keep the running game productive. Between Dillon and whoever we pick up in the draft or FA, we will be more than effective on the ground. Spend some draft capital or find a cap casualty to give us a serious slot receiver and this offense will be more than dangerous.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
GilMartin's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:44 pm

That's a definite option, Razer. You don't want to overpay for a RB in the modern NFL. I am also a big Aaron Jones fans but the money thing is a concern as is a lack of depth and continuity at RB. We'll see what Gutekunst decides to do. Thanks for the comment.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Fabio's picture

March 04, 2021 at 02:56 pm

I loved Jones but his time ran out in Green bay. Rodgers is getting older (hopefully like last season) and many examples show that the older the Qs the more the defenses have to support the team. I would like to say we use the money and the draft to improve the D. But the offense, in the last two seasons, was very much based on the run game (it helped Rodgers a lot) and losing Jones (and Williams) makes everything very dangerous.
In Italy we say that "when the blanket is short if you pull on one side you discover the other". I opt to improve the D at the expense of Jones and try to trust La Fleur's imagination and his ability to make things work even with non-exceptional players (excluding Adams)
Greetings from Italy
GPG

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
ricky's picture

March 04, 2021 at 12:56 pm

You write that Dillon hasn't proven he can be an every down back. A reminder, although many on here were calling for more playing time for Jones under McCarthy, he also wasn't a "proven every down back", so he didn't play. When given the chance, he did very well. You never know what a guy can do until you put him on the field against real competition. Let Jones go, re-sign Williams if possible, and draft another RB or two in the middle rounds.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
stockholder's picture

March 04, 2021 at 01:14 pm

Tag Him. The Sophomore jinx. Tag him. Because Gute can't replace an All-pro. Tag him. Because he wants more then we can afford. Tag him. Because it's a No Brainer. Tag Him. Because Gute will waste more draft picks. Tag him- If were really serious about winning the Division. Tag him- Because Gute will only waste money on some retread FA. Tag him- Just Because we can.

+ REPLY
3 points
5
2
CHESSEHEaADDALLAS's picture

March 04, 2021 at 01:15 pm

Tag him now and work a deal out if we do not Gute will pull a Ted Thomson and get a wash-up nobody that will not even make the team or it is a draft picks he will draft a toilet bowl scrubber or someone that will not play for another 4 years

+ REPLY
-1 points
2
3
Gman1976's picture

March 04, 2021 at 03:13 pm

Definitely tag him for all these reasons, and if necessary, getting a much higher draft choice than a 4th rounder if we let him go. Jones is worth at least a 2nd rounder or even a number one with his stats and game changer ability. Yes, he will get injured in a season; but he is too much of a player to let him go for so little in return. If someone really wants him, make them pay for what he is worth.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Ernesto's picture

March 04, 2021 at 01:26 pm

If you tag him he gets one more year and knows the system. That is a big plus unless you already have his replacement on hand, there are cheaper backs later in the rounds and the money is steep.
Then I would trade or let him go and get a draft pick compensation.
I did like the guy, he played hard, wasnt hurt too often and is a decent player.
He is the reason I dont like the concept of draft and development - after three years you get nothing for your money. If the guy turns out great they leave for da mooney. If the guy is so so, you wasted time and money on nothing.
I like Zimmers " were in the win now mode, not the develop mode". You draft people who you know will come in and contribute at an NFL level on day one

+ REPLY
-2 points
0
2
jeremyjjbrown's picture

March 04, 2021 at 01:40 pm

Transition Tag. It's 8 something million for Jones or 2 first rounders from any takers.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
tm_inter's picture

March 04, 2021 at 02:06 pm

Instead of tagging Jones for $8 million, he can be replaced by Josiah Deguara who can catch the ball as TE or run the ball as FB plus block for Rodgers. Deguara and Dillon can be the Packers' duo from the backfield.

+ REPLY
-4 points
2
6
Bear's picture

March 04, 2021 at 02:48 pm

Most places project the 2021 franchise tag to be 11.1 million and transition tag to be 8.9 million for RBs.

2021 Projected Franchise and Transition Tenders
Position Franchise Tag Transition Tag
QB $24,112,000 $21,749,000
DE $17,752,000 $14,811,000
WR $16,430,000 $14,269,000
LB $15,657,000 $13,406,000
CB $15,266,000 $13,202,000
OL $14,507,000 $13,156,000
DT $14,178,000 $11,405,000
S $11,196,000 $9,550,000
RB $11,112,000 $8,942,000
TE $10,167,000 $8,576,000
ST $4,792,000 $4,382,000

+ REPLY
2 points
3
1
Coldworld's picture

March 05, 2021 at 07:37 am

I have noted the above before. It looks like an OTC person misspoke substituting the transition number for the franchise tag, leaving many to believe Jones could be tagged for 8 million ( really 9) as opposed to 11.

As you note, OTC has not changed its numbers to reflect the statement, which suggests these are the true numbers it stands behind three weeks later.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Since'61's picture

March 04, 2021 at 10:04 pm

I would tag him and try to work out a deal with during the season. If he goes to FA we get a 3rd rounder at best for him. It's virtually a total loss for the Packers. try to retain Jones and keep the offense together. Thanks, Since '61

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
flackcatcher's picture

March 05, 2021 at 12:59 am

Tough call either way. The Packers' problem is the market is pretty unsettled, and will remain so until the Cap stabilizes. The other big elephant in the room is Rodgers contract. To extend or not extend. That's a decision that Gutekunst has put off till the very last minute. Well, the last minute is here. When he makes his call, every other contract will fall, one way or the other, including Jones. Jones and his agent (the notorious one) is gambling that the Cap will rebound close to its previous levels. Maybe, but for a player like Jones, that is one heck of a risk to take in the current Cap structure. Still, one can understand why both Jones and Williams have decided to remain unsigned. Both should attract some fairly decent offers. Not what they want, but good offers from other NFL teams. Still, the Packers are clearly hoping the market Cap will drop to a point that makes signing one, or the other affordable in their salary structure. We'll see.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Irish_Cheesehead's picture

March 05, 2021 at 07:19 am

Jones for even one more year while Dillon develops is a plus. It also opens up the draft to more positions of need like OL and CB without needing to use a higher pick on a RB. I think they tag him and then work out a contract, but we will see. I trust Gute!

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
TXCHEESE's picture

March 05, 2021 at 09:36 am

As long as they can re-sign Williams, then moving on from Jones is not a horrible result, but I really think the Pack needs to retain one of the two. I love Jones and the way he plays, but the dollars long term could really end up biting BG in the @ss. Spend a pick on day two or three next month, and develop the offense with Williams, Dillon, and Deguara, and said rookie. Remember, Jones was a 5th round pick, albeit a steal in hindsight. There are good backs to be had in this draft, that won't cost a ton of draft capital to get.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Jackxxxxb's picture

March 05, 2021 at 10:49 am

tag Jones trade with 1 st to move up for kick ass lineman

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.