Packers Expected to Part With 3-Year Starter, Extend $12.5 Million 1st-Rounder

Two members of the Green Bay Packers offense drafted in 2020 are probably on their way to new teams once free agency hits in March, while a former first-round pick in 2019 could be coming back for the long haul.

Darnell Savage, Packers

Rob Demovsky of ESPN laid out the Packers’ free agency situation on Tuesday, January 30.

“The youthful Packers don’t have a lot of must-sign free agents; running back AJ Dillon and guard Jon Runyan probably will have to seek jobs elsewhere. But [Darnell] Savage could be one to return,” Demovsky wrote. “The 2019 first-round pick has been praised for his leadership and communication skills and would probably prefer to return to the Packers, who might be looking for two new starting safeties if they don’t bring back Savage. He had 51 tackles in 10 games in the regular season plus a key pick-six in Green Bay’s wild-card upset of [the] Dallas [Cowboys].”

Savage joined the Packers as the No. 21 overall pick out of Maryland five years ago. He played out his $12.5 million rookie deal in 2022, and Green Bay exercised its fifth-year option on Savage to keep him in-house through the 2023 campaign on a one-year deal worth $7.9 million.

Jon Runyan Held Back Tears Following What Could Be Final Game With Packers

Rhyan Center Candidate Runyan

For Runyan’s part, he isn’t interested in leaving the franchise after four years with the team, including the last three as a starter in 50 of a possible 51 regular-season games. He spoke emotionally with media members on January 22 about what it has meant to him to be a member of the Packers since the team drafted him in the sixth round out of Michigan in 2020.

“It was awesome,” Runyan said, per Lauren Helmbrecht of WFRV Sports. “I don’t know if there’s a better organization out there. I loved it here. It was a good time.”

“Just the brotherhood — it’s unreal,” Runyan added. “This organization — everybody inside, the people out of the facility, the fans. It’s a special place. Met some really good people here. I hope I don’t leave. It was a good time.”

Runyan has been a part of three Packers playoff teams. Green Bay lost in the NFC Conference Championship Game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the eventual Super Bowl winners, in Runyan’s rookie season. The Packers fell the following year to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round as the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Green Bay bested the Cowboys on Super Wild Card Weekend this time around before falling late to the 49ers in the Divisional Round under first-year starting QB Jordan Love. The only time the Packers have missed the playoffs during Runyan’s four-year stint with the team came in 2022, the last season of quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ 18-year run in Green Bay. A home win against the Detroit Lions in Week 18 would have been enough to put the Packers into the playoffs that season.

AJ Dillon Dropped Ball in Contract Year With Packers

The Packers are dealing with an AJ Dillon injury ahead of Week 15

Like Runyan, Dillon is also a good bet to play elsewhere in 2024, though things could have turned out quite differently for the backup running back if this season had gone another way.

Dillon came in with the opportunity to seize the starting job, or at least the primary rushing duties, from Aaron Jones, and Jones’ injury issues throughout the year helped Dillon’s cause. Unfortunately for both Dillon and the team, he proved unable to rise to the occasion in his fourth professional season.

When it was all said and done, Dillon finished the 2023 campaign with 613 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 178 carries for an average of 3.4 yards per attempt. All of those marks represent career-lows for Dillon, not counting his rookie year.

Green Bay can go younger and healthier at the position via Day 3 in the draft. The Packers could also dismiss Jones, as doing so will clear $11.3 million off the books in 2024 and save the team $4.2 million in 2025 as long as the organization doesn’t execute a cut or trade until after June 1. If that ends up the case, and Green Bay also lets Dillon walk, the Packers could be players for a free-agent running back like Derrick Henry.

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