The Green Bay Packers still have to cut more than $12.5 million just to get under the adjusted $180 million salary cap before the start of the new NFL year, they’ll need to go beyond that if they hope to make any moves in free agency, including bringing back any of their own, such as Aaron Jones and/or Corey Linsley to name two.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst spoke with reporters via zoom on Tuesday. Certainly a long term deal with Jones would be considerably better for the salary cap, but he didn’t rule out using a tag on Jones.
The last time the Packers used the franchise tag was in 2010, on nose tackle Ryan Pickett. Losing Jones, without exploring every opportunity to keep him, would be a mistake.
Jones is tied for second in the league the last two years with 30 total touchdowns. His 5.17 yards per carry career average ranks number-5 in league history among backs with at least 600 carries. His 37 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons is more than any player in franchise history.
The cost to use the tag on Jones would be $8.074 million this coming season.
If the Packers can’t reach a long term deal and decide to use the tag on Jones, using the franchise tag makes total sense.
“There’s a lot that goes into that,” said Gutekunst. “Really, I think it’s a way to keep a player on your team that you maybe feel you’re not able to sign long-term. Again, we’ve tried to avoid that just because we think there’s better ways to go about it but, at the same time, it is a tool that can be effective if you need it.”
Of course, the Packers would have to hope Jones would be alright with the move. Losing out on a long-term deal, with more guaranteed money, could lead to hard feelings. But at this point, it may be the only alternative in the short term, to keeping Jones in a Packers uniform.
Despite the Packers current salary cap issues, Gutekunst also didn’t rule out the team’s ability to acquire a high end free agent to help make that push to a Super Bowl. But for now, the Packers need to create cap space and the most likely way to do that is by reworking the contracts of their top players, like quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They already went that direction with left tackle David Bakhtiari.
The Packers can also extend wide receiver Davante Adams and redo the contracts of some of their other top players. In addition, the Packers can create space by releasing certain players. They have already released veteran players Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner.
How much the Packers end up doing to create cap space will tell you just how much they’re in on trying to win it all in 2021. They’ve been close each of the last two seasons, falling one game short of the Super Bowl.
Green Bay passed on trying to bring in veteran J.J. Watt, but it doesn’t mean they’re not willing to go all in on a key free agent, or a few mid-level free agents. The next weeks will give Packers Nation just how willing they are to stretch their comfort level to try to win a Super Bowl.