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So much for overpaying for a running back.
The full contract details for Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones turned the initially reported four-year, $48 million deal into a team-friendly deal that amounts to a two-year agreement for around $20 million and makes Jones one of the NFL’s best values in 2021.
Thanks to the back-loaded structuring of the deal, Jones will account for only $4,475,000 against the Packers’ salary cap in 2021, an amazing price to start a second contract for one of the game’s most explosive and productive running backs.
Over the last two seasons, Jones is fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (3,017) and second in total touchdowns (30). He’s also one of only three running backs to produce at least 3,000 total yards and score 30 touchdowns, joining Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook.
Henry’s cap hit in 2021 is $13.5 million. Cook, like Jones, has a manageable cap hit at just over $5.1 million.
Overall, Jones has the 13th highest cap hit among NFL running backs next season.
All great players on rookie deals are great value. That’s how the system works. But it’s much harder to find the same great values on great players signed to a second contract like Jones. For 2021 and at least the next two years, the Packers have Jones and second-round pick A.J. Dillon under contract at a reasonable cost.
In fact, next year, Jones and Dillon will cost around $5.7 million on the cap. The pair could be the best 1-2 punch at running back in the NFL in 2021, and they’ll take up less than half of the cap space as what the Titans are using on Henry.
Keep in mind, the Packers were entertaining the use of the franchise tag on Jones to keep him out of free agency. Using it would have cost around $8.7 million in 2021. The Packers passed, and now they have Jones under contract long-term and at a cap hit this year costing roughly half of the tag amount.
Even in 2022, when Jones’ cap hit rises to $9 million, he’ll still only have the seventh-highest cap hit among running backs. And by 2023, when a massive roster bonus is due and his base salaries start to balloon, the Packers will almost certainly move on or restructure the final two years of the deal. Cutting Jones after the 2022 season will create a dead cap hit of $6.5 million but save the Packers nearly $13 million on the cap.
Dead cap is actually a good way of looking at the value of Jones in 2021. Of the 32 NFL teams, 19 have more dead money – or cap dollars spent on players no longer on the roster – than what Jones will cost the Packers this season.