The Green Bay Packers will most likely be in the market for a new starting running back and a new starting center for the 2021 season, seeing as how both Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley are looking less and less likely to return.
With both players have played their entire careers in green and gold, losing two trusted offensive players in an offseason that will be filled with tons of cap casualties is a hard pill to swallow. Plus, with the kind of cap space conundrum that Green Bay is facing this offseason, finding suitable players to plug those gaps is not such an easy task.
Finding replacements for both will most likely come through the draft, but being able to replicate that kind of talent in short order is not an easy thing to have to ask a first-year player, but it is what will be asked of any and all incoming rookies this year. Currently fielding a roster that has been on the doorstep of a Super Bowl berth for the last two seasons, the competitive window for this team is still very much here, something that will need to be capitalized on in short order.
For Jones, the former UTEP back has flourished in Matt LaFleur’s offense, as he has been used both as a rushing and a receiving weapon. Teaming up with both Jamaal Williams, who is also a free agent this offseason, and rookie AJ Dillon, Jones was able to earn the bell-cow role while remaining dominant.
But with that kind of output comes a comparable salary, something that the Packers are not able to currently handle due to the projection of a lower salary cap. With the reported mutual interest between Jones and the Miami Dolphins, a bidding war could be upon us for Jones’ services, a conversation GM Brian Gutekunst would leave almost as soon as he entered into it.
There are two (albeit slim) possibilities that foresee having Jones return – either through the franchise or transition tags (the seldom-used guaranteed contracts by Green Bay that would lock Jones in for a season) or through a one-year deal that would be heavy with incentives.
The tags would come in at $11.1 million (franchise) and $8.9 (transition) respectively, numbers that are high for a position that burns out quickly. For Jones, these values look to be in line for what he is looking for on the open market, leaning more towards the franchise value.
On Linsley’s side, Bill Huber of SI reported that there had been no contact made between Linsley and the team, setting the stage for his eventual departure.
Ryan Kelly of the Indianapolis Colts currently holds the title of being the league’s highest-paid center at $12.4 million, a dollar value that Linsley should come in under but still be in double-digits. While both Lucas Patrick and Elgton Jenkins profile as being the current in-house replacements for Linsley, his role on this team makes his departure even harder to deal with.
The center is an integral part in any NFL offense, but the rapport that Linsley built with Rodgers, dating back to 2014, is tough to replace, which could force Rodgers and LaFleur to focus their offensive plans differently this season.
LaFleur’s offense is going to look different this upcoming season, especially with the likely departures of their RB1 and starting center. With tight money maneuvers essentially freezing out a return for both Jones and Linsley, it will be interesting to follow what the front office decides to do moving forward to replace their production.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23