Packers' Aaron Jones says he hasn't entered his prime yet and 'it's going to be scary' for opponents
GREEN BAY - Yes, Aaron Jones thought about how it might end.
He thought about the fumble. The injury. Walking off Lambeau Field for perhaps the final time in a Green Bay Packers uniform, unable to finish the NFC championship game.
He thought about how close he'd been to a Super Bowl. Back-to-back NFC championship game losses. The second coming on his home grass.
He thought there might not be a chance to rewrite that ending. As free agency approached earlier this month, Jones wondered if his career was heading somewhere else. In those final days before reaching the open market, Jones thought a lot about how his time with the Packers might end.
"Walking off the field the last game," Jones said. "Kind of walked off the field, head down, not the way I wanted to end. And going through my mind, I'm like, 'Man, is this the way my career's going to end in Green Bay and in Lambeau?' I definitely didn't want to finish my career like that here. I'm just blessed to be able to come back and suit up here."
Jones, the first-time Pro Bowl running back in 2020, gets a second act with the Packers because of a second contract, signing a four-year, $48 million deal that could keep him in Green Bay through his age-30 season.
With Jones back, the Packers keep one of their most dynamic players from a team that finished with identical 13-3 records the past two seasons. Jones has gained a combined 3,017 yards with 30 touchdowns since the start of 2019, including consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He led the NFL in touchdowns with 19 in 2019.
Jones was in Florida with his twin brother, Alvin, when the Packers reached an agreement with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. He immediately hopped on FaceTime with family members, who celebrated virtually. Then his brother took him out to eat, but not before making a pit stop.
- SILVERSTEIN: Why Packers don't need to make free-agency splash
- RELATED: Quick fixes still beckoning on free-agent market
- RELATED: Packers bring back Kevin King while taking steps to clear cap space
- DOUGHERTY: No contract change creates questions about Aaron Rodgers' future
Jones went to the gym for a workout first. The next day, a Monday, he had another workout.
"Just because you've got the contract," Jones said, "doesn't mean the grind stops."
Jones agreed to his contract one day before the NFL started its legal tampering period. In his first comments Friday since signing the contract, Jones refuted a claim from Rosenhaus that he left money on the table by not entering the open market. At $12 million annually, Jones' contract ties Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon for sixth-highest paid at his position. Only Jones' $13 million signing bonus was guaranteed, coming in ninth at his position. Jones indicated he isn't concerned with the lack of guaranteed money.
Instead, the running back emphasized how much he appreciates staying with the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft.
"This is home for me," Jones said. "This is where my career started. Just everything feels right here. This system, I've got my home here, I've got my teammates, know the coaching staff. Everything.
"So it just felt like it was a great, great fit for me and continue to play where I've been playing, and it's home."
- GREEN 19 PODCAST: Packers keep key pieces in place
- FREE-AGENCY TRACKER: Live updates, latest breaking news
With potentially four more years left with the Packers, Jones has a chance to leave his mark on the franchise. He ranked 11th on the franchise’s all-time rushing list with 3,364 yards, 71 behind 10th-place Eddie Lacy. With another 1,000-yard season, Jones would surpass Tony Canadeo for fourth on the list. Another 1,000-yard season after that would put Jones in third, surpassing John Brockington.
The only rushers ahead of him then would be Ahman Green and Jim Taylor.
Jones is also tied with Billy Howton for 18th on the franchise’s career touchdowns list with 43. With another double-digit touchdown season, he could surpass Greg Jennings for 10th in franchise history.
“Everywhere I go,” Jones said, “I want to rewrite the history books and leave my stamp. I feel like that's the best way to do it, is leave your name in the history book. So just got to continue to work, and hopefully by the end of my career, you'll see my name up there in a lot of the record books.”
Jones doesn’t doubt scaling the franchise’s record books is attainable. Yes, the shelf life for running backs is short. By the end of Jones’ contract, it’s far from certain he’ll be the same player he’s been the past two years.
Jones said he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“You say entering a prime,” Jones said, “I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface to enter the prime yet. So I feel like I’ve still got a lot of growing to do, and I think it’s going to be scary for a lot of people. Just continue to grind and work, and I’ll be right where I want to be.”
The Packers on Friday also made the re-signing of cornerback Kevin King official.