Datone Jones signs deal with Vikings
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers keep losing players, but at least they're piling up credit for compensatory draft picks.
Add outside linebacker Datone Jones to the list of Packers grabbing a ticket out of town. A source said he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings that NFL Network's Mike Garofolo reported was worth $3.5 million and could reach up to $5 million based on incentives.
Jones joins guard T.J. Lang (Detroit), running back Eddie Lacy (Seattle), linebacker Julius Peppers (Carolina), cornerback Micah Hyde (Buffalo) and center JC Tretter to leave the Packers through unrestricted free agency. All should count in the calculations for compensatory picks, but a good deal of it has to do with playing time and production in the upcoming season.
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The only unrestricted free agent whom the Packers have signed is tight end Martellus Bennett, who would probably negate Hyde given their near equal yearly averages.
The picks don't come until next year, which means general manager Ted Thompson has an enormous job ahead of him in replacing the six who have left. Unless he goes on an unexpected free agency spending spree, a number of key backup positions will likely be manned by rookies.
Though he retained Nick Perry, losing Jones and Peppers means the only two other outside linebackers with any experience are Clay Matthews and Kyler Fackrell. It would be easy to find a veteran to add to the mix such as Connor Barwin or Chris Long, but that is rarely Thompson's style.
At running back, the Packers have Ty Montgomery and Don Jackson. They could always go after Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles, but there's no indication they're headed in that direction.
At cornerback, Thompson signed veteran Davon House, who won't have any problem assimilating into defensive coordinator Dom Capers' system and will be an asset if he can revert to the effective press corner he was in Jacksonville in 2015.
On the offensive line, finding a replacement for Lang won't be easy. The Packers have two college tackles, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy, who could give it a go, but unless they can pull a Josh Sitton out of this draft, they might have a problem all year long.
With Jones in Minnesota, it completes a trifecta in the Packers' gifts to the NFC North. Sitton plays for Chicago, Lang for the Lions and Jones for the Vikings.
Jones probably will be asked to gain weight after losing 15 pounds in order to play outside linebacker. A first-round pick in 2013, Jones bounced around the defensive line for most of three seasons before moving to outside linebacker late in the 2015 season.
Jones could play defensive end or three-technique in the Vikings' 4-3 system.