James Jones: Why the Green Bay Packers Never Meant to Keep the WR Past 2011

Elyssa GutbrodContributor IOctober 4, 2011

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 2: Donald Driver #80 celebrates with teammates James Jones #89 and Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field on October 2, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matt Ludtke /Getty Images)
Matt Ludtke/Getty Images

If you’re not Greg Jennings, it is a bittersweet year to be a wide receiver in Green Bay.

On the one hand, being on the field with quarterback Aaron Rodgers has got to be any wide receiver’s dream come true. It is starting to seem like Rodgers could make anyone capable of running a route into a star.

On the other hand, wide receivers who would certainly start elsewhere must face the cold reality that they are third- or fourth- or even fifth-best on the Frozen Tundra. There aren’t enough snaps or balls in the game to keep everyone happy.

James Jones, I’m talking about you.

During the lockout this year, it was easy to imagine a Packers team without James Jones. His contract hadn’t been renewed prior to the work stoppage, and once talk of his free agent experiment began, everyone waited for the seemingly inevitable.

He gave a lot during the Super Bowl run in 2010, and fans would have been sad to see him go—but not heartbroken. Like defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and guard Daryn Colledge, Jones would have simply faded away into a pleasant memory as he played out his career with another team.

He’s good, but he’s by no means indispensable for Green Bay.

When interest in the whirlwind free agency period dried up without a big contract, Jones essentially came back to the Packers with his tail between his legs. They took him back as their purported third-string wide receiver with a three-year, $9.4 million contract.

It’s starting to look like Jones was just a red herring; the Packers never meant to keep him.

The writing on the wall for Jones became a lot clearer after Week 4, as the Packers announced a contract extension for fourth-string WRJordy Nelson: three years, worth up to $13.35 million.

There’s almost no doubt that whenever Donald Driver decides to bow out of his position as the No. 2 wideout, Jordy Nelson will be the one to take his place. He’s being groomed to take up the torch of one of the most important players in Packers franchise history.

That leaves James Jones on the outside looking in.

Even before the contract extension, Jones’ future in Green Bay seemed to be in jeopardy. With Randall Cobb’s strong showing for the first quarter of the season, it is clear that the Packers are still rich in talent at wide receiver. There’s also Tori Gurley, the potential diamond in the rough waiting on the practice squad, to consider.

So why did the Packers bring Jones back in 2011 if they didn’t want him?

He serves a dual purpose right now as the team continues to grow its talent from within.

First, he serves as an insurance policy for the present. He’s a great wide receiver who’s familiar with the system. He has taken a trip through the postseason and has a ring to show for it. And, quite frankly, he came at a bargain price.

Second, he serves as an insurance policy for the future. He probably won’t be gone by the trade deadline, but he will certainly be sent away at the conclusion of the season. He’ll be shuttled off to another team for a currency that is more precious to Ted Thompson than gold: a draft pick.

During all the talk about RB Ryan Grant being on the trading block earlier this year, despite his renegotiated contract, James Jones somehow managed to fly under the radar.

With Jordy Nelson’s new deal however, the Packers coaching staff has tipped its hands: Jones will be gone as soon as some team desperate enough at wide receiver comes along and names the right price.