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Running back Aaron Jones, Packers 'definitely' working on contract extension

Tom Silverstein
Packers News

GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones said during training camp he would leave any contract business to his agent and stay focused on football.

He apparently has been involved enough to know the two sides are negotiating toward an extension that would avoid him hitting unrestricted free agency in March.

In an appearance Tuesday on NFL Network, Jones sounded like he knew that for a fact.

“Yes, they definitely are,” he said of work on an extension. “My agent and them are taking care of that. I’m going to focus on football.”

Signing running backs to long-term second contracts has become less common because of the position’s short shelf life and the recent trend of ready-made starters available in the middle and late rounds of the draft.

Jones, a fifth-round pick in 2017, is a perfect example of the latter.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is shown Monday, August 17, 2020, during training camp in Green Bay, Wis.

He was dynamic from the time he stepped on the field and wound up averaging 5.5 yards per carry over his first two seasons. However, he suffered MCL tears to each knee his rookie year and again to his right knee in ’18, limiting him to 24 games and 214 carries.

After working hard on conditioning during the ’19 offseason, Jones exploded for 1,016 yards on 236 carries (4.6 average) and 16 touchdowns. He also emerged as a pass receiving threat, catching 49 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns.

His 19 total touchdowns tied for the league lead.

The fact Jones made it through all 16 games and two playoff games without getting hurt answered some questions about his durability. But the Packers made nose tackle Kenny Clark their priority when it came to a contract extension this offseason and Jones has had to wait patiently.

Clark signed a four-year, $77.69 million extension on Aug. 15, leaving Jones, left tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley and cornerback Kevin King as key starters set to hit free agency in March.

The Packers will be $9.246 million under the salary cap when cap calculations include all salaries instead of just the top 51 starting Saturday.

It leaves Packers vice president of finance Russ Ball some flexibility in negotiating extensions, but he won’t be able to include as much of the cap charge in 2020 as he probably would like. The salary cap is expected to be flat at best next season because of the massive loss of revenue due to COVID-19 and so he will have to push some cap charges into latter years of the deal. It’s something teams don’t like to do because if a player gets hurt they are stuck with large amounts of “dead” money on their cap.

The Packers are one of three teams with big decisions to make with running backs entering their fourth seasons.

The Minnesota Vikings, the Packers’ Week 1 opponent, have reached an impasse in negotiations with 2017 first-round pick Dalvin Cook, who has not been happy with the Vikings’ unwillingness to complete a deal.

The New Orleans Saints hit an impasse with their star running back, Alvin Kamara, who angered the club by missing some practices with a back injury. The Saints threatened to trade Kamara, but reports Tuesday indicated the two sides were close to a deal.

 Recent running back deals include a four-year, $64 million extension Carolina gave to Christian McCaffrey and a four-year, $48 million extension Cincinnati gave Joe Mixon.

It’s likely Jones’ deal would land somewhere in between that in yearly average.

“I’m really not looking at the market, I’m just focused on myself,” Jones said in May. “I feel like I can play at a really level and elite level for a very long time, so I’m just going to do what I can and hopefully that leads to me being a Packer for life. That’s my goal.”