This morning's Green Bay Press Gazette has reported that Brad Jones is returning to Green Bay for a three-year, $11.75 million contract.
While we can debate if the price was a bit steep (it seems like it is), the real question is: With Jones getting a pay raise while A.J. Hawk takes a pay cut, are Hawk's days numbered?
The clock certainly seems to have started running.
Jones filled in very ably last season when Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith ended up hurt and lost for the year, and proved he could be an extremely effective inside linebacker.
Now, Hawk had one of his better and more consistent seasons but still lacks consistent "game changing" plays. He's solid, but unspectacular—and sometimes not as solid as he should be.
The coaches love his leadership and intangibles, but that only gets you so far if you can't step it up in big moments and make a huge play. The smartest thing in the world for him was to take the pay cut he did, as if to acknowledge "yeah I haven't earned that."
Still, they can only keep him around on the "he's a great leader" grace note for so long—it's the equivalent of a quarterback whose proponents always fall back on "all he does is win football games."
If Jones can step up and continue to develop, he will eat into Hawk's playing time—especially if he shows up in big moments while Hawk doesn't.
In which case, by the end of the season, even the $3.5 million could end up being a bit steep for a locker-room leader who can't lead by his play on the field.