Aaron Jones Lands With NFC Rival After Surprise Packers Release

Aaron Jones is signing a new contract elsewhere in the NFC North less than 24 hours after the Green Bay Packers surprisingly released him from their roster.

Aaron Jones Vikings Signing NFL Free Agency

According to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, the Minnesota Vikings are signing the 29-year-old Jones to a one-year, $7 million contract for the 2024 season after showing initial interest in him following his departure from the Packers on March 11.

The Vikings are adding Jones to a backfield that presently includes 2022 fifth-round pick Ty Chandler and 2023 seventh-rounder DeWayne McBride. They also have the option to place an original-round tender on restricted free agent Cam Akers to retain him for a little less than $3 million for the 2024 season.

Even if Akers returns, the Vikings will likely look to Jones to lead the position group.

Jones’ signing with the Vikings means the Packers will face their former running back at least twice during the 2024 season. During his seven seasons with Green Bay, he amassed 8,016 all-purpose yards and scored 63 total touchdowns. He departs the franchise as its third all-time rushing leader with 5,284 career rushing yards.

Packers Wanted Aaron Jones to Take Pay Cut in 2024

Jones’ release took Packers fans and media by surprise on Monday. Two weeks earlier, general manager Brian Gutekunst had said after the 2023 season that he “absolutely” wanted Jones back with the Packers next season. Disagreements about compensation between the team and Jones’ camp forced Green Bay to shift course quickly, though.

“The Packers wanted him to take almost a 50-percent pay cut, if not more,” Russini and Matt Schneidman wrote in a co-authored piece about the situation on March 11.

“Negotiations between the Packers and agent Drew Rosenhaus to lower Jones’ number started before the NFL Scouting Combine but didn’t make much progress over the following two weeks. The week after the combine, the two sides got slightly closer but were still far apart late in the week. The Packers presented their final offer to Jones’ camp, which they declined last Friday.”

The Packers did not have many options with Jones. He has proved to be one of their top offensive playmakers in 2023 when healthy, but he was also due to carry a cap charge north of $17 million for the 2024 season. The only running back with a larger cap hit is New Orleans Saints veteran Alvin Kamara, whose 2024 cap hit is about $18.76 million.

In fairness, the Packers dug their own grave with Jones. He agreed to take a $5 million pay cut in 2023 to return to Green Bay, but the team could have been proactive in trying to keep him for the long term and worked out a new deal instead of reducing his salary.

Instead, the Packers will now boldly lead their backfield in a new direction with Jacobs.

Packers Could Add Another RB to Mix in 2024 Draft

It may go without saying, but the Packers’ backfield will look much different in 2024. Jones is gone and AJ Dillon — their 2020 second-round pick and No. 2 back for the past three years — could be right behind him if the team does not re-sign him. Dillon’s exit would leave 2023 undrafted rookie Emanuel Wilson as the second option to Jacobs.

Could the Packers still look to add another rusher in the 2024 NFL draft, though?

The Packers have no shortage of draft capital with double selections in the second, third, sixth and seventh rounds. If they want to find a true complement to Jacobs, someone like Texas’ Jonathan Brooks or Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen could appeal to them on the second day of the draft. Or they could attempt to do what they did with Jones and Jamaal Williams in 2017 and take two running backs with Day 3 picks.

Either way, it would be shocking if the Packers did not draft at least one new back.

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