In all likelihood, the Green Bay Packers’ offensive backfield will look very different in 2024 than it has for the last four years, specifically at the running back position. The team’s top two backs are both in precarious contractual positions, and there’s a real chance that neither one returns for next season.
On the top line of the depth chart is Aaron Jones, who has been a multifaceted, explosive weapon for the Packers for the last six seasons. Jones’ contributions as a runner are exceptional, as he has averaged more than five yards per carry for his career and in four of his six years, while he consistently makes an impact as a receiving option as well with at least 40 receptions in each of the last four seasons.
Unfortunately for Jones, his contract may be impossible for the Packers to absorb after this season. His existing contract runs through the end of the 2024 season, but he will have a salary cap hit of $17.2 million in that final year and the team has already punted nearly $7 million of cap space into void years in 2025. With that in mind, in order for him to be on the 2024 roster, the Packers must be willing to extend Jones’ contract beyond the age of 30 or dump a lot more of that 2024 cap number into dead money in 2025.
Meanwhile, his backup, AJ Dillon, is beloved in the community and has recorded back-to-back seasons of more than 750 rushing yards and 957 scrimmage yards. Still, his 2022 was disappointing, as his yards per rushing attempt dipped to 4.1, a career-low. Meanwhile his broken tackle rate dropped off massively while he dropped a whopping seven passes after not dropping a single target over his first two years.
Dillon has shown flashes of exceptional ability over his first few years, but they have been just that — flashes. Consistency has eluded him, and that is arguably the area where he needs to improve the most if he hopes to sign a new contract to remain in Green Bay beyond 2023, something he surely would love to do given the passion he has expressed for Wisconsin.
Why Packers RB Aaron Jones is one of Matt LaFleur’s ‘favorites’ | Packers Wire
That goes for everything Jones does and stands for -- his work ethic and ability on the field and everything he does off of it. But is that enough for the team to absorb that massive cap hit next season?
Make-or-break candidates: Players at a crossroads entering 2023 NFL season | NFL.com
Dillon is one of the 12 players listed here. He could either take a big step forward and earn a big new contract to be the Packers' long-term feature back, or he could have similar struggles to last year and end up getting only a low-value, short-term deal elsewhere in free agency.
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Although Gary has been working hard, he isn't putting a timeline on his return, saying "I'll be ready when I'm ready."
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The two Packers rookies are headed to Nashville for the annual post-minicamp training session put on by George Kittle, Travis Kelce, and Greg Olsen.
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Well, that's one way to avoid tickets or having to pay for spots in a large metropolis.