I know, I know. It’s another article on paying running backs. I get it.
But this time, it’s near and dear to the hearts of Green Bay Packers fans. Aaron Jones had another banner performance on Sunday, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was a 75 yarder to open the second half. However, this is something we knew about Jones. After all, he did rush for 1,084 yards last year along with 16 touchdowns.
However, in 2019 he also had 49 receptions for 474 yards and 3 touchdowns. That’s mostly what’s led to this renewed argument regarding an impending extension for the Packers’ feature back.
Aaron Rodgers stepping into his throws/setting his feet is the most encouraging sign of the entire 2020 season (this catch from Aaron Jones isn't bad either) pic.twitter.com/3Wkx1dhFhJ— Joe Kipp (@joepkipp) September 20, 2020
Jones’ ability as a wide receiver is nothing new or something he’s only developed since he’s been in the NFL:
5'9 RB Aaron Jones... Good runner in pro style scheme - patience, timing, vision.— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 1, 2017
But he has sneaky good hands - screens, wheels & THIS! pic.twitter.com/0ujxGoayDI
So when I saw this tweet on Sunday, it got me thinking:
You don't pay Aaron Jones because he's a running back. You pay Aaron Jones because he's a running back and a wide receiver.— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) September 20, 2020
Is Aaron Jones any different than Todd Gurley II, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, or any of the other running backs who have gotten large contract extensions and have flamed out or been much less effective early in those sizeable contacts?
For those of you less-versed in the Twitter wars regarding running back contracts, here is the basic premise: Most more-traditional football minds feel that elite talent at the running back position is still valuable and their contracts should resemble as much. The opposition, mostly analytic-based thinking folks, tend to believe that rushing production is more a product of the surrounding cast rather than the runner himself, that the position is fairly replaceable, and that therefore a large investment in that position is unwise. The only caveat is that running backs who provide additional value as receivers carry much more worth than rushers who are primarily runners with less than average receiving ability.
Now, before we go any further, I just want to preface that I am pro-paying running backs. It’s just MY belief that they carry more value than they’re given credit for in the analytic community. Right or wrong, this isn’t the discussion at hand. I just wanted to get that out there to say this: I’m proposing this as a bit of a devil’s advocate and to be thought provoking to the Packers’ fanbase. Packers fans generally seem to be anti-paying backs, but I’m curious if that sentiment will remain when the player at hand is one of their own.
The consistent theme I’ve seen on this topic seems to be this: those other backs weren’t used in the same capacity as Jones is currently being utilized in Green Bay’s attack. That’s what makes Jones more valuable and validates the thought of paying him. I’d be willing to argue that point.
Here is a clip of Le’Veon Bell, often lauded for his route running and receiving ability, last season with the Jets:
Here is David Johnson’s carcass last season in Arizona catching a ball (admittedly against a linebacker):
Kyler Murray to David Johnson for a TD.— Sports Notes (@TheSportsNotes) September 8, 2019
Murray’s first career TD pass.
David Johnson’s first TD catch of the season. pic.twitter.com/mHVxmkdAnt
Here also is Johnson out of the slot:
David Johnson is a different kind of receiver than most running backs that catch passes. Look at him track this pass for a touchdown in heavy traffic. He's on pace for 109 targets, 33 more than last year when he was already a top 10 PPR RB. https://t.co/qWmESw7Tom pic.twitter.com/BnuH57JatT— Scott Spratt (@Scott_Spratt) October 15, 2019
Finally, here is Todd Gurley, operating in an extremely similar offense in 2018 against the Packers:
Incredible catch by Todd Gurley! pic.twitter.com/3eWPsZlKkJ— DraftKings (@DraftKings) October 28, 2018
All of this to truly raise the question: Should the Packers pay Aaron Jones? Is he really being used differently than those backs before him?
The other factor in this question is the current state of the team.
As you may have heard, Aaron Rodgers will be 37 years old in December. In theory, to get the most out of his limited window with Jordan Love waiting to eventually take over, that money could be used elsewhere to continue to get Rodgers more weapons and shore up the roster where there are holes. A.J. Dillon was picked in the 2nd round, and though he’s not nearly as capable as Jones in the pass game, it’s tough to keep an investment that significant on the bench.
In your opinion, can Green Bay find a back similar in production later in the draft, like when they picked Jones with a 5th rounder? Or should Green Bay hold on to the 25-year-old who is as impactful as any runner in the NFL today?
Will Green Bay fans remain steadfast in the general thought that you shouldn’t pay running backs market-setting money? Or will that change with Aaron Jones, even though he’s not a ton different theoretically from most backs who have gotten paid with poor returns for their teams?
Should the Packers pay Aaron Jones premium money?
This poll is closed
Yes, he’s an elite RB and 25 years old.
No, we just took a RB in the second round.