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A sensible Aaron Jones contract extension doesn’t exist

The Packers would either be overpaying or Jones would be giving up too much.

Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

This post was inspired by our own Peter Bukowski’s tweet about what type of contract would be good for both Aaron Jones and the Green Bay Packers:

Which led to my own response:

I’d like to elaborate more on my point on how I cannot see a deal being “good for both sides” given the following variables: The willingness of bad front offices to overpay runningbacks, the fact that Green Bay just drafted a running back in the second round, the impending salary cap crunch, and the fact that Green Bay has David Bakhtiari to take care of.

I’ve belabored the point that Aaron Jones isn’t all that important to Green Bay’s future enough, but to put the final nail in that coffin we go to ESPN’s Seth Walder:

The Packers ran about as well as you’d expect them to given their run blocking. Jones alone probably pushes Green Bay a little above that line, as Jamaal Williams is a pretty terrible runner, but Jones isn’t setting Green Bay apart in any significant way.

To move beyond strictly the “running backs don’t matter” focus, contracts in the NFL are based upon what your contemporaries get. So what have other running backs received in recent years that could inform us on what Aaron Jones will be seeking? I think there are five recent extensions that Jones’ camp will be looking at to try and nail down his value:

Recent RB Extensions

Name Total Dollars Fully Guaranteed Length AAV
Name Total Dollars Fully Guaranteed Length AAV
C. McCaffrey $64,063,412 $30,062,500 4 $16,015,853
E. Elliott $90,000,000 $28,052,137 6 $15,000,000
D. Henry $50,000,000 $25,500,000 4 $12,500,000
J. Mixon $48,000,000 $10,000,000 4 $12,000,000
A. Ekeler $24,500,000 $13,750,000 4 $6,125,000

I don’t think we need to worry about a McCaffrey or Elliott-type extension for Jones, but I also don’t think that Jones would be interested in an Austin Ekeler-type deal either. That leaves us in the Derrick Henry/Joe Mixon zone. The AAV on Mixon and Henry’s deals is quite comparable, but where they differ greatly is in the fully guaranteed money. Mixon is only fully guaranteed 39% of what Henry is. I think this is the continuum that Jones exists on.

A lot of people on Packers Twitter have discussed the idea that getting Jones for around $7 million per year would be fine. I disagree with that because I believe paying anything more than day 3 salaries for running backs is too much, but compared to the general market for running backs, that would be a good deal for Green Bay.

The problem is that there’s no reason for Jones to accept that kind of deal. The numbers that Jones put up last year are typically rewarded with an extension near the top of the running back market. Given the COVID situation, the fact that he is not Christian McCaffrey, and the Packers are not Jerry Jones, I would not expect Jones to challenge the very top of the running back market, but there is probably at least one team out there that would match what Derrick Henry got, or at least close to it, for Jones. In that case, a team would be looking at $11-13M AAV for Jones over four years, and in the neighborhood of $25M fully guaranteed. That is not a contract Green Bay should even think about approaching. Forget a small overpay — this would be a cataclysmic disaster.

The running back market is probably still the most inefficient place in the NFL. Teams wildly overpay to keep “their guy” when their guy can be replaced relatively easily and for quite cheap. The replacement level of running backs is very high, but not all teams have realized this yet. And in a distorted economy like the NFL, all you need is a single buyer to drive the price out of a reasonable range. Green Bay cannot afford something outside of a very reasonable range.

David Bahktiari is due an extension ASAP. He’s an elite pass blocker and an elite run blocker, and he plays a position that typically ages much more gracefully than others. The cap crunch from COVID is coming and will not be limited to just one year. In an environment like that, the Packers cannot afford to waste a single dollar, let alone several million. It appeared that Green Bay was going to avoid this problem when they drafted AJ Dillon, the bruising runner with little-to-no apparent passing game value, in this past draft. Extension talks between Jones’ camp and the Packers have not quieted down though, so it appears Green Bay may be heading straight into a problem of their own making that was entirely avoidable.