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The Packers’ Aaron Jones Conundrum: To pay or not to pay?

Will the talented back make Packers fans change their thinking on paying ball carriers?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jones’ ability as a wide receiver is nothing new or something he’s only developed since he’s been in the NFL:

So when I saw this tweet on Sunday, it got me thinking:

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):

Here also is Johnson out of the slot:

Finally, here is Todd Gurley, operating in an extremely similar offense in 2018 against the Packers:

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?

Poll

Should the Packers pay Aaron Jones premium money?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Yes, he’s an elite RB and 25 years old.
    (651 votes)
  • 31%
    No, we just took a RB in the second round.
    (295 votes)
946 votes total Vote Now