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Aaron Jones’ contract shows a $4.5M salary cap hit for 2021 & an easy out after 2022

The Packers’ deal with their star runner probably ends up being a two-year deal with some dead cap space in 2023, but it’s as favorable a contract as one could imagine given the early reports.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions

The details are in for the Green Bay Packers’ new contract with running back Aaron Jones, and the team looks like it has found a way once again to execute what is effectively a two-year deal on a veteran contract. Earlier this week we tried to project what a Jones deal would look like, but the Packers backloaded Jones’ cap hits even more than we had expected.

Field Yates of ESPN revealed the final details, which are broken down in table form below. It is important to note that the $48 million total as initially reported appears to be accurate, rather than a significant chunk of that total coming in the form of incentives.

However, the most important factor for the immediate future is Jones’ salary cap hit in 2021, which comes in at a scant $4.475 million. That number roughly doubles to $9 million in 2022, then balloons to a massive $19.25 million for 2023. As a result, the Packers will almost certainly make a major contract adjustment from Jones during the 2023 offseason, either through a straight release or a massive restructure or pay cut.

Here’s a look at the full breakdown:

Aaron Jones’ Contract Structure

Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Roster Bonus Per-Game RBs Workout Bonus Cap Hit Cash
Year Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Roster Bonus Per-Game RBs Workout Bonus Cap Hit Cash
2021 $1.000 $3.250 $0.175 $0.050 $4.475 $14.225
2022 $1.100 $3.250 $3.750 $0.400 $0.500 $9.000 $5.750
2023 $8.100 $3.250 $7.000 $0.400 $0.500 $19.250 $16.000
2024 $11.100 $3.250 $0.400 $0.500 $15.250 $12.000

One note is that Jones technically has a total of $200,000 in per-game roster bonuses in 2021 ($12,500 per game). However, because he was active for 14 of the 16 games in 2020, two of those checks for a total of $25,000 are counted as not likely to be earned incentives, and thus do not count against the cap for 2021.

All told, the Packers reduced Jones’ 2021 cap hit by giving him a small base salary, a lower workout bonus than he would get over the rest of the contract, and lower per-game roster bonuses than in the final three years as well. That allows the team to get away with a cap hit of $4.475 million for 2021 while still paying Jones $14.25 million in cash this year. Then Jones will make another $5.75 million in 2022 at a cap hit of $9 million before the expected out comes up in 2023.

Once again, this seems like a good deal for all parties, . Jones will earn more in cash over the first two years than he likely would have if the team franchise tagged him twice. The Packers get a cap hit under $5 million this season for an elite running back, and can absorb a dead money cap hit of $6.5 million if they need to release him outright after two seasons.

The deal still may not appeal to proponents of the “never pay running backs” approach, but it does provides the Packers with an easy out prior to Jones’ age-29 season while absorbing cap hits at below-market value.