Since their selections by the Green Bay Packers in the 2017 NFL Draft, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have been inextricably linked. The two players were selected just 48 picks apart — Williams with the 134th selection in round four and Jones at pick #182 in the fifth round. They have been backfield-mates ever since, alternating as the team’s featured running backs over their first two years before Jones’ emergence in 2019.
Now, the two are getting raises together.
The NFL’s Proven Performance Escalator program awards players drafted in the third round or later who achieve certain playing time thresholds with a base salary increase for the final year of their rookie contracts. A player must be on the field for 35 percent of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps over their first three years, or at least 35 percent in two of the three years individually to become eligible.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, both players were officially awarded these bonuses on Friday, taking each of their base pay up from the fourth-year league minimum salary of $735,000 to $2.147 million apiece for a raise of approximately $1.412 million. This will increase both players’ salary cap hits by the same amount, lessening the Packers’ cap space in 2020 by just over $2.8 million in total.
The increased salary is equivalent to the lowest restricted free agency tender for the upcoming season, meaning that the NFL’s low tender this year will come in at that same amount: $2.147 million.
Both players met both of the playing-time criteria for the escalator, as well. Overthecap.com has Williams hitting the 35% mark in all three seasons — 42.3% in 2017, 48.7% in 2018, and 35% exactly this season — while Jones hit the mark in 2018 (35.0%) and 2019 (61.2%) as well as overall at 39.6%.
Jones, of course, had a breakout year in 2019, rushing for 1,084 yards and 16 touchdowns while adding nearly 500 receiving yards and three more scores through the air. In their three seasons, the two backs have combined for 3,740 rushing yards, 1,427 receiving yards, and 47 touchdowns.
The Packers only have one player on track to achieve this bonus in 2021. That would be wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was over 50% playing time in each of his first two seasons. That means he would earn the raise for his fourth season as long as he is still signed under his rookie contract next offseason. In addition, no players drafted in round three or later in 2019 achieved the 35% snap count mark this fall.
For Jones and Williams, this boost can serve as an acknowledgement of their excellent work through their first three seasons, as they have firmly solidified the Packers’ running game. Their status for 2020 is not in question, but each will look to get a much bigger raise next offseason, when the players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.