Packers' Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason DecisionsMarch 24, 2021
Packers' Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions
The Green Bay Packers were not too active in the first week of NFL free agency, and it does not look like they will make a massive splash in the coming weeks either.
Green Bay's biggest move was the retention of Aaron Jones, but that could be met with a wave of criticism because of the team's running back situation.
The reigning NFC North champion had A.J. Dillon waiting to take over the starting role, but instead it gave Jones a substantial contract for a 26-year-old running back.
Even with Jones back in the fold, the Packers suffered a net loss in free agency due to the departure of center Corey Linsley.
Green Bay is putting in trust in young players on the offensive line, but replacing Linsley's experience on the interior may be a more difficult task than developing another top-tier running back would have been had Jones left.
Re-Signed Aaron Jones
No one can blame Jones for commanding a large deal on the free-agent market.
The 26-year-old was a touchdown machine over the last two years as he found the end zone on the ground 25 times and caught five touchdown passes.
He surged to the front of the running back market with back-to-back 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons and two straight 47-plus-reception campaigns.
Green Bay rewarded Jones for his play with a four-year, $48 million deal, but that may not have been the wisest decision since a good amount of top tailbacks experience a dip in production before 30.
The Packers could have hit the restart button at the position and let Dillon, 22, earn the bulk of the workload while spending money on improvements elsewhere.
Jones and Dillon could end up as one of the top duos in the NFL, but re-signing Jones makes you question why the Packers spent a 2020 second-round pick on a back who will split carries at best in his sophomore season.
That criticism comes in the similar vein as the quandaries about taking Jordan Love with a first-round pick in 2020 with Aaron Rodgers still on the roster.
The quarterback and running back situations are examples of front office mismanagement. While the Packers could get a few more years of production out of Jones, it appears they have wasted draft capital and some salary cap room in the process.
Let Corey Linsley Walk in Free Agency
The other significant move made by Green Bay was one it did not execute.
Green Bay allowed Linsley to sign a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, which opens the door for some young offensive linemen to take hold of larger roles.
The Packers can absorb the loss of Linsley by sliding in Elgton Jenkins to center, but it could take some time for him to develop the same rapport Linsley had with Rodgers.
Rodgers was only sacked on 20 occasions in the regular season, and he suffered 56 takedowns in his last two seasons thanks in part to the protection from Linsley on the interior.
Given the current pieces on the roster, you could have made the argument that keeping Linsley was more important than retaining Jones, no matter what the cost was.
Linsley landed a five-year, $62 million deal in Los Angeles, which is right around the annual value that was included in the Jones contract.
Green Bay could have locked in an interior piece for the long-term future while saving money at running back to ensure Rodgers is protected.
Instead, the Packers are taking a risk on young talent on the offensive line and hoping Jones gives them at least two more years of 1,000-yard form to make sure the big free-agent decisions pay off.
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Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.