The Green Bay Packers are planning to keep running back Aaron Jones in 2023.
General manager Brian Gutekunst didn’t hesitate or flinch when asked if Jones – who has a ballooning salary cap hit next season – will be back for another season in Green Bay.
“Certainly, we expect to have him back,” Gutekunst said Friday.
Jones, a fifth-round pick in 2017, rushed for a career-high 1,121 yards in 2022. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, marking the fourth time in six seasons that he’s averaged at least 5.0 per carry, and he set a new career-high for runs of at least 10 yards (31).
As a receiver, Jones caught 59 passes, the fifth-most among running backs, and scored five receiving touchdowns.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Gutekunst said. “For a guy his size, to bring it every day, he rarely misses a practice, rarely misses a rep. The way he leads our football team, his consistency is amazing.”
The problem ahead is hardly talent-based and mostly financial. Jones’ salary cap hit rises from $5.9 million in 2022 to $20 million in 2023, and the Packers may not be able to fit a $20 million hit for a running back on the cap.
Gutekunst didn’t rule out pulling one of the various restructuring levers on Jones’ deal to reduce his cap hit next season. Jones has a $7 million roster bonus due in March, and the Packers could turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus to prorate the money over several years and save cap dollars in 2023.
The Packers could save over $10 million on the cap in 2023 by cutting Jones, but that scenario sounds off the table for Gutekunst.
His reliability and availability give the Packers confidence he’ll remain an effective player. Jones played in all 17 games in 2022, and having A.J. Dillon on the roster provides an opportunity for the Packers to limit his workload and keep him as healthy as possible over a full season.
Jones who turned 28 in December, now ranks third in Packers history in rushing yards (5,284) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (43).