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Aaron Jones

Packers take care of one of their own

In a mild surprise, to me at least, the Packers signed Aaron Jones yesterday to a four-year, $48 million contract. It's surprising only in that Green Bay protect Jones from leaving with the franchise tag, making it seem he'd reach the open market. It's not surprising in terms of what Jones has earned over the past few seasons.

A former fifth-round pick, Jones quickly proved to be the better player than fourth-rounder Jamaal Williams, who we can now say with some certainty won't be back in Green Bay. Williams has averaged exactly 4.0 yards per attempt over his four seasons; Jones in those same years is at 5.2 per carry; up at 5.5 in three of those years. Over the past two years, he's one of the league's most productive running backs, up there with a handful of guys who are generally selected a round earlier in fantasy leagues.

Since the start of the 2019 season, only four running backs have more total yards than Jones (and he's within 77 yards of two of those players). Only one has more touchdowns.

Table shows the top 40 running backs in total yards the last two seasons. Players headed for free agency are in italics -- that's a third of the list.

Derrick Henry, Tenn.313567320353887
Dalvin Cook, Minn.282692880303572
Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.312336758223094
Alvin Kamara, N.O.2917291289273018
Aaron Jones, G.B.302188829303017
Nick Chubb, Clev.282561428202989
Christian McCaffrey, Car.1916121154252766
Josh Jacobs, L.V.282215404192619
David Montgomery, Chi.311959623172582
Austin Ekeler, LAC2610871396142483
Chris Carson, Sea.271911553182464
Miles Sanders, Phil.281685706122391
Leonard Fournette, Jax.-T.B.28151975592274
Kenyan Drake, Ariz.291772482182254
Ronald Jones, T.B.301702474142176
Melvin Gordon, LAC-Den.271598454192052
Joe Mixon, Cin.221565425121990
Devin Singletary, Buff.28146246361925
Todd Gurley, LAR-Atl.301535371231906
Adrian Peterson, Wash.-Det.311502243121745
Phillip Lindsay, Den.27151322481737
David Johnson, Ariz.-Hou.251036684141720
LeVeon Bell, NYJ-K.C.26111759961716
Latavius Murray, N.O.311293411111704
James Conner, Pitt.231185466131651
Raheem Mostert, S.F.241293336131629
Mark Ingram, Balt.261317297171614
Kareem Hunt, Clev.241020589141609
Gus Edwards, Balt.32143417481608
Sony Michel, N.E.25136120891569
Carlos Hyde, Hou.-Sea.261426135101561
Saquon Barkley, NYG15103749881535
Jonathan Taylor, Ind.151169299121468
Jamaal Williams, G.B.2896548991454
Frank Gore, Buf.-NYJ31125218941441
James Robinson, Jac.141070344101414
James White, N.E.29384102091404
J.D. McKissic, Det.-Wash.3257082241392
Nyheim Hines, Ind.32579802111381
Duke Johnson, Hou.2764565971304

With Jones off the market, the top free agent (my opinion) is Chris Carson. He's been the 11th-most productive back the last two years. The other three best backs are probably Raheem Mostert, Kenyan Drake and James Conner. In three of the four cases, injuries are part of why they're available -- all but Drake have missed 5-9 games the last two seasons -- which might keep their price down. But in general they've been very productive when on the field. Drake is an interesting case. Will teams see the workhorse he was in Arizona in 2019, or the guy who didn't look quite as good as Chase Edmonds for a lot of 2020?

The Packers may have some interest in bringing back Williams as a passing-downs complement, but it's unlikely -- he should get more money and a better chance at a larger role elsewhere. Green Bay has AJ Dillon as its No. 2, but Dillon looks like somebody who won't be usable if Jones is healthy. He'll get some change-of-pace work and maybe the occasional short-yardage situation to reduce pounding of Jones, but I think that's about it. If you drafted him already in a best-ball league, you're in need of a Jones injury for that investment to pay off.

--Andy Richardson

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