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Packers Shockingly Release Aaron Jones After Signing Josh Jacobs

Aaron Jones, one of the most productive running backs in NFL history, carried the Packers to the playoffs but was released on Monday in a cost-cutting move.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ backfield was given a swift and stunning makeover at the start of NFL free agency on Monday, with former All-Pro Josh Jacobs agreeing to terms and the reported release of Aaron Jones.

As great as Jordan Love played down the stretch, the 29-year-old Jones practically carried the Packers to the divisional round of the playoffs. Once fully integrated into the offense following a knee injury, Jones reeled off five consecutive 100-yard games. That was the longest streak in franchise history. His dominance set the stage for everything as the offense caught fire.

His return for another season seemed practically preordained.

“Yeah, absolutely, we’d love to Aaron back,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said after the season. “We’re still putting all those things together as far as how we’re going to move forward. But he was such a difference-maker when he was out there this year. The way our offense was able to move, the way he changed a lot of the way we operated when he was in there and when he was healthy.

“I think for us, it’s finding a way to keep him out there and keep him healthy. Not only on the field but, and you guys know this, he’s such an influential leader in our locker room. He’s just really the heartbeat of our team. That’s certainly the anticipation, that he’ll be back.”

“Anticipation” became “shock” on Monday. The Packers and Jones’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had been in talks to reduce Jones’ $17.6 million cap charge, a figure that included an $11.1 million base salary. That, however, didn’t happen. Assuming the move is immediate and not a June 1 move, the Packers will gain $5.22 million of cap space.

That’s small consolation, in a sense, given Jones’ prolific production and fan-favorite status. While he missed six games due to hamstring and knee injuries, he had missed only four games the past four seasons. Combined with his selfless attitude and ever-present smile, Jones was a face-of-the-franchise type of player.

However, Jones is coming off an injury-plagued season and is set to turn 30 late in 2024.

“He’s not the biggest guy but pound for pound, I don’t know that there’s many tougher than him,” coach Matt LaFleur said after the playoff win at Dallas.

Jones rushed for 1,121 yards in 2022 – his third season topping 1,000 yards – but settled for 656 yards in 11 games in 2023. Most of that work came down the stretch. His success rate – a stat that matches Green Bay’s win/loss grading – of 62.0 percent ranked No. 1 in the NFL.

“Amazing,” Jones said of the season. “Honestly, it’s been the best team I’ve been around. Just the way we come together and believe in each other. We care about each other. We’re all brothers, cousins. We’re all like family. We’re all related somehow. It’s truly fun when you know those guys care about you. You can just look on the field and it’s evident we’re playing for each other. That’s why it hurts a little bit more because we were playing for each other.”

At the Scouting Combine, Gutekunst was asked if he wanted to have a power back to pair with Jones. The 220-pound Jacobs is that power. Now, they need a complement without the slicing and dicing acceleration of Jones.

“I like guys that are all well-rounded and can do everything,” Gutekunst said. “That’s not always the case, but I do think we would always like to have one power, bigger back on the roster for short-yardage situations and playing in the weather and closing out games, things like that.

“Aaron Jones is not that but, at the same time, he’s an absolute difference-maker. I don’t know if I’m necessarily tied into one thing, but I do think within the three to four backs we’re going to carry that one has to be a bigger back.”

A fifth-round pick in 2017, has 5,940 career rushing yards rank third in Packers history. His 5.05-yard career average ranks seven among all running backs with at least 600 carries in NFL history.

Jones closed the season with 127 yards in a win at Carolina, 120 yards in a win at Minnesota and 111 yards in a win against Chicago to wrap up a playoff berth, then 118 yards and three touchdowns in the playoff upset at Dallas and 108 yards in the playoff loss at San Francisco.

“You guys see it, right,” LaFleur said after the Dallas game. “Just his ability to put his foot in the ground, be explosive, make people miss. I can’t say enough great things about the guy, the football player, what he means to our team, the leadership he brings. He’s a rare guy. There’s not many like him, and how he encourages his teammates, how he uplifts his teammates.”