BOCA RATON, Fla. - The clock apparently has struck midnight for James Jones’ comeback with the Green Bay Packers.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy confirmed at Tuesday’s NFL owners meetings that he sat down with Jones’ agent, Frank Bauer, and informed him the team doesn’t plan to re-sign the veteran receiver at this time.
Jones, who turns 32 next week, returned on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum shortly after final cuts in September and wound up leading all Packers receivers with 890 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games with 15 starts.
His unexpected production was critical for a passing game that struggled to adapt without Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson. With Nelson slated to return from a torn ACL, however, the Packers have a horde of young receivers with 2014 draft picks Davante Adams, Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis competing for roles behind Nelson and Randall Cobb.
That’s not to mention 2015 third-round pick Ty Montgomery, who finished the season on injured reserve after undergoing ankle surgery but is expected to return in time for training camp.
Jones said during a recent appearance on NFL Network that both he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers want Jones back in Green Bay next season, but also acknowledged that might not happen. McCarthy kept the door open for a possible return, but it doesn’t appear imminent.
“I had a chance to talk to Frank Bauer a couple times down here,” McCarthy said. “James is such a class act, not only on the field but what he does for your locker room, too. This is a decision obviously to look forward with the younger guys. You never know. You never say never. It’s this time of year. You haven’t completed your 90-man roster. You still have the draft, free agency and all those things going on. I think it’s important in this situation not to hold him back either.”
A third-round pick in 2007, Jones has played eight of his nine seasons with the Packers and has 433 catches for 5,861 yards and 51 touchdowns over 136 regular-season games. Rodgers trusts Jones, but the receiver’s limited speed and inability to separate against top cornerbacks was an issue at times. Still, he was effective in executing his patented stop route. His veteran presence in the locker room also made him popular with teammates, new and old.
Much like when the Packers let Jones walk in free agency after the 2013 season, they appear ready to do it again.