The first time James Jones hit free agency, the Green Bay Packers’ receiver wasn’t met with a piping-hot market for his services.
In fact, the greenest pasture in the post-lockout landscape turned out to be in Green Bay on a three-year deal.
Since his 2010 season was mired in dropped passes, Jones has produced three of his finest NFL seasons, including a league-leading 14 touchdowns in 2012 and a career-high 817 receiving yards in 14 games this year.
Now, the 29-year-old receiver returns to offseason uncertainty. Money is tight and two younger options, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, will both be free agents next offseason. A potential replacement, Jarrett Boykin, improved exponentially in his second season with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns.
“People know what I can do. I'm excited about it,” Jones said. “Like I said, I would love to come back. A-Rod's my guy. We've got a great group of receivers and would love to come back and play with those dudes. I've been here for seven years, it's not like I've only been here for three years and now I'm a free agent. Shoot, I dang near spent my whole career here, so I would love to finish here.”
To Jones’ credit, he used his three additional seasons in Green Bay to solve his issues with drops. He had 12 drops on 100 catchable passes in 2010 and 2011 compared to only five on 128 the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.
Boykin, an undrafted rookie in 2012, wasn’t as sure-handed. He had five drops on 54 targets.
Jones made a modest $3.25 million this season with a $2.95 million base, but he’s also one of the oldest players in an organization dependent on youth. He wouldn’t project what he’s worth on the open market, but said he’s willing to test it.
“I'm not one of those guys who sits at home and says I'm worth $30, $40 million,” Jones said. “We'll see what happens when the market comes and guys start making offers -- if they start making offers. We don't even know. We're sitting here talking about free agency. I could be going to Canada, you never know. So we'll see what happens.”