The best monetary values for an NFL team are, almost by definition, players on rookie contracts. Players in the first three years of their careers are cost-controlled to a tremendous extent, even those drafted highly. Those who make a big impact after being drafted late or going entirely undrafted are particularly valuable, and the Green Bay Packers have largely done a solid job of finding contributors in those latter stages of player acquisition, and there are plenty of solid values to be found across the team’s roster.
After breaking down the worst cap values on the team a day ago, we look today at those players who are providing excess value to the team. One tool that is useful is examining Over the Cap’s player valuation tool, which tries to put a cap number to a player’s actual on-field numbers and contributions from the most recent season. Using that in conjunction with the player’s actual compensation numbers and their raw stats can give a great indication of where the best values can be found.
3. CB Chandon Sullivan & WR Allen Lazard
Jon Meerdink did it with the worst values yesterday, so I’m going to cheat a bit and say that these two former undrafted players, castoffs whom the Packers acquired from other teams, both deserve consideration.
With two qualifying seasons of experience under his belt, Sullivan will make a base salary of $750,000 in 2020, the league minimum for a third-year player. He emerged as a tremendous depth cornerback midway through the 2019 season, however, posting the team’s best passer rating allowed at just 34.3 and giving up only 3.9 yards per target while primarily lining up in the slot. His presence and performance last season is a big reason why the Packers chose not to re-sign veteran Tramon Williams (at least not yet), and he provided far better value relative to a replacement player, which is what he is being paid as — to illustrate this, Over The Cap valued his 2019 play at about $3 million.
Lazard, meanwhile, did not play enough games in 2018 to qualify as a full season, so he gets the second-year league minimum of $675,000 for the coming season. Like Sullivan, he far surpassed his compensation a year ago, finishing the year in second place on the team in receiving yards and tops in yards per target among players with at least two targets per game. OTC valued his play at about $3.5 million, and he is likely to start in 2020 opposite Davante Adams. Getting even just a repeat of his 2019 stats (477 yards and three touchdowns on 35 receptions) in 2020 will make him a tremendous value.
2. RB Aaron Jones
2020 Cap Hit: $2.182 million
In 2019, the third year of his rookie contract, Jones finally broke out with a massive season. He crossed the 1,000 yards rushing and 1,500 yards from scrimmage marks and tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns while featuring a cap hit under $700,000. In 2020, he will get a raise thanks to the NFL’s Proven Performance Escalator program, boosting his base salary to $2.133 million. But even at that number, Jones — who finished tied for third on the team in Approximate Value last season — is a ludicrous bargain.
Jones may not reach those same statistical numbers in 2020, particularly if Matt LaFleur divides up the snaps a bit more between three backs instead of just him and Jamaal Williams, but #33 will be among the best values. OTC’s valuation of him at just under $12 million illustrates how important it is for a team to have running backs on rookie deals.
1. LG Elgton Jenkins
2020 Cap Hit: $1.542 million
While Jones took his star turn in year three last year, the Packers’ 2019 second-round draft pick takes the top spot on our list heading into 2020. Jenkins was an All-Rookie player last year after stepping in for Lane Taylor at left guard, and it’s no secret why. He was a mauler in the run game and still very good in pass protection, and it will be a shock if he does not make the Pro Bowl and/or generate All-Pro consideration in his sophomore season.
As a second-round pick, Jenkins received a signing bonus of about $3 million following the draft, giving him cap hits of about $1.23 million as a rookie. His base salary increases by about $300,000 this season, taking his cap hit up a bit with it. But the Packers have a top-ten NFL guard at worst in Jenkins — OTC valued him at over $8 million — playing on the second year of a rookie deal, and any step forward from him in 2020 will put him in the conversation for the best players at his position. He is already one of Brian Gutekunst’s best draft picks, and he is all but certain to get another contract from the Packers when his rookie deal nears its end.