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Packers positions of need: 10 RBs in PFF’s top 150 free agents

Running back looks like a big need for the Green Bay Packers this offseason, and 10 running backs were listed in PFF’s top 150 best free agents list.

Currently, the only running backs on the roster are Aaron Jones and Ellis Merriweather (a practice squad player from 2023), although Emanuel Wilson will return as an exclusive rights free agent. Even so, at the bare minimum, depth is needed.

Not that there should have been any doubts about Jones’ future with the team for the 2024 season, given his play over the final five games, but if there were, GM Brian Gutekunst squashed any questions around that by saying Jones would return.

However, the Packers are going to need to adjust his contract to lower his $17.02 million cap hit.

Although Jones will be back, what his workload will look like remains an unknown, given his age and injury history. Finding a capable second running back option will be a must, regardless of whether or not Jones is healthy as the Packers will continue to be mindful of the number of snaps he plays.

AJ Dillon provided a steady presence in this secondary role, capable as a pass-blocker and pass-catcher, along with recording at least 800 total yards in each of the last three seasons. But what the Packers need more of in that second running back spot is playmaking, especially if they were without Jones at any point.

While Dillon was reliable, he was limited, not possessing the same ability to create for himself or to make defenders miss. Dillon would average just 3.4 yards per carry in 2023.

Perhaps this is a role that Wilson can earn during training camp. In the limited sample size we saw from him, he displayed good burst and was able to make defenders miss. With that said, the Packers aren’t going to rely solely on Wilson to fill that second running back position. There will be competition added.

The big question is not in regards to the Packers adding to the running back room–that’s going to happen. The real question is where and when they do it.

Finding a running mate for Jones and building out the depth of the position is not only for the 2024 season, but this is also the final year of Jones’ current deal and could be his last in Green Bay. The Packers also need to begin planning for his potential departure next offseason.

The draft, especially in those middle rounds, will provide the Packers with that opportunity to bolster the position both for 2024 and beyond.

Given the running back landscape in today’s NFL, along with how short the window often is for this position group to make a significant impact, addressing this need in the draft with a young player on a rookie deal is probably the prudent move versus spending cap space on a short-term option in free agency.

However, when having this conversation, it’s important to keep in mind that the Packers were in on trade conversations around Jonathan Taylor last summer, showing that they are at least open to the idea bringing in an established player to pair with Jones, and one that could come with a hefty contract as well.

The Packers cap situation isn’t great by any means, but it is improved from last offseason, giving them more flexibility to make an impact addition if the right player is available, as Brian Gutekunst put it. But again, will those cap dollars go towards a position where we’ve seen many teams find impactful players in the draft?

Below are the 10 running backs that made PFF’s top 150 free agents list, along with what Spotrac projects that each player will earn on a per-year basis.

29. Saquon Barkley ($9.9M per year)
30. Josh Jacobs ($10.6M per year)
31. Derrick Henry ($10.3M per year)
55. Tony Pollard ($6.5M per year)
56. Austin Ekeler ($7.4M per year)
104. D’Andre Swift ($6.7M per year)
128. JK Dobbins ($2.1M per year)
129. Devin Singletary ($5.3M per year)
132. AJ Dillon ($3.5M per year)
133. Zach Moss ($4.6M per year)

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire