Source: Packers to sign Josh Jacobs, release Aaron Jones

ByRob Demovsky ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 12, 2024

For the first time since 2017, the Green Bay Packers will have a new No. 1 running back.

Free agent Josh Jacobs has reached a four-year, $48 million deal with the Packers, who in turn have toldAaron Joneshe's being released, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday.

Jacobs' deal also includes $12.5 million guaranteed, a source told Schefter.

Jacobs, 26, responded to being slapped with a $10.091 million franchise tag last season by not signing it and skipping the entireLas Vegas Raiders' offseason program, training camp and preseason. He agreed to a restructured $11.791 million, one-year deal and had the worst season of his five-year career -- finishing with lows in games played (13), rushing yards (805), yards per carry (3.5), rushing touchdowns (6), rushing first downs (34) and yards from scrimmage (1,101).

Jones, meanwhile, has averaged 5.0 yards per carry over 97 games since being draft by Green Bay in 2017. In his seven seasons, Jones, 29, had rushed for 5,940 yards and scored 63 total touchdowns (45 rushing, 18 receiving). He also has caught 272 passes for 2,076 yards.

A little more than a month ago, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Jones "absolutely" would be back in Green Bay.

That was likely before he ever knew that he could land Jacobs.

Jones could return to the Packers if the market for a 29-year-old running back isn't to his liking. A year ago, he took a $5 million pay cut to return to Green Bay for total compensation of $11 million in 2023, including an $8.52 million signing bonus.

He was scheduled to make up to $12 million this season, including salary ($11.1 million) and bonuses ($500,000 for offseason workouts and up to $400,000 for games active).

Though Jones is coming off his least productive regular season (142 carries, 656 yards, 2 touchdowns) since his rookie year, he rushed for more than half of that in the final three games. In the team's two playoff games, Jones rushed for a combined 226 yards with three touchdowns on 39 carries (a 5.8 yards average).

"He certainly had an impact on the game and an impact on our offense, an impact on our team with our late-season push," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after the season. "I don't know if we do all that without him. That's all part of the process."

Jones is the only player in NFL history with 5,000-plus rushing yards (5,940), 45-plus rushing touchdowns (45), an average of 5.0-plus yards per carry (5.04), 250-plus catches (272), 2,000-plus receiving yards (2,076) and 15-plus touchdown catches (18) in his first seven seasons.

"He was such a difference-maker when he was out there this year," Gutekunst said earlier in the offseason. "The way our offense was able to move. The way he changed a lot of the way we operated when he was in there and when he was healthy. I think for us, it's finding a way to keep him out there and keep him healthy. Not only on the field but, and you guys know this, you guys have been around here, he's such an influential leader in our locker room. He's just really the heartbeat of our team. That's certainly the anticipation, that he'll be back."

Now, it's the younger Jacobs, 26, who becomes the focal point of the running game, which also could lose backup AJ Dillon in free agency.

The 5-foot-10, 223-pound Jacobs missed the Raiders' final four games with a quad injury. The minus-2 yards he had on nine carries at Buffalo in Week 2 represented the first time a reigning rushing champ had negative rushing yards in a game since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

This came after he was first-team All-Pro in 2022, when he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,053 yards) as well as rushing (1,653).

A two-time Pro Bowl selection and only the third Raiders player to lead the league in rushing, along with Marcus Allen (1985) and Clem Daniels (AFL in 1963), Jacobs has rushed for 5,545 yards in his career (4.2 yards per carry), second most in the NFL since 2019, behind onlyDerrick Henry's 7,209 yards.

Jacobs' 46 career rushing touchdowns are the second most in the NFL since 2019, behind Henry's 68. Jacobs' 6,993 scrimmage yards are the fourth most in that time, trailing Henry (8,295), Christian McCaffrey (7,454) and Tyreek Hill (7,173).

Though Jacobs has 197 career receptions, he has yet to catch a TD pass.

ESPN's Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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