Green Bay’s star running back coming off monster season, entering final year of rookie deal
GREEN BAY - Aaron Jones has a big year ahead of him.
Not only is the Packers' No. 1 running back coming off the best season of his pro career thus far, but he's entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Another season of 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage (1,084 rushing, 474 receiving) and a league-leading 19 touchdowns (a franchise-record 23 including playoffs) would set him up for a huge payday.
But he also could make himself difficult to fit into the Packers' salary-cap picture, with key veterans such as Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari and others also playing out their current deals.
In his typically jovial, understated style, Jones expressed on a conference call with Green Bay media Wednesday he isn't worried about any of that. His mindset right now is he loves playing for the Packers and will keep giving it his all, contract at stake or not.
"Whether it's my first year or my last year on a deal, I'm going to be just as motivated," Jones said. "It doesn't change just because a contract is on the line for me. I'm going to continue to work and do everything in my power. I trust my agency and the Packers.
"With that, I would love to be a lifelong Packer."
While he may not have total control over that if he wants to maximize his value on a second contract - which for running backs can often be the only big one due to shorter careers - Jones has shown he can do what he puts his mind to.
Last year, he mentioned on "The Rich Eisen Show" that one of his goals was to lead the league in touchdowns. This coming from a player who hadn't even hit double digits in a season yet in his career.
Lo and behold, with 16 rushing TDs and three more receiving scores, he tied Carolina's Christian McCaffrey for the top spot with 19 in 2019.
"When I said it, people were probably like, 'Who is this guy? He's not even a full-time starter.' And probably laughing," Jones said. "To just accomplish that, you set them high and achieve them, that feels good."
McCaffrey just became the league's highest-paid running back a couple of months ago, though he has a longer track record of success than Jones, who came to the Packers as a fifth-round draft pick from UTEP in 2017.
Matching or exceeding his numbers from last year won't be easy, either, with the Packers investing a second-round draft pick in Boston College running back A.J. Dillon. He joins Jones and fellow 2017 draft pick Jamaal Williams to give Head Coach Matt LaFleur three legitimate backfield options for his offensive vision in 2020.
Jones isn't bothered by the addition of Dillon, and he's looking forward to whatever dynamic he brings. He was in a competition with Williams for playing time from the day they arrived in Green Bay, so he sees this no differently.
He noted he's fine with betting on himself and letting the chips fall.
"I'm really not looking at the market, I'm just focused on myself," he said. "I feel like I can play at a really high level and elite level for a very long time, so I'm just going to do what I can and hopefully that leads to me being a Packer for life."
Aside from the yards and touchdowns, arguably Jones' most important accomplishment last year for the Packers and his own career was proving his durability. He played in all 18 games after knee and hamstring issues cost him a handful of games in each of his first two seasons.
He's been training as similarly as possible this offseason amidst pandemic-related limitations, and even with the virtual offseason program, he feels the Packers' offense can "hit the ground running" once the team is back together.
As for a personal encore to his monster 2019 season, Jones didn't throw out any target numbers. Just one objective.
"I want to win the Super Bowl," he said, matter of factly. "We were one game short. I mean, it's not all about me, it's about the team and I feel like we all feel like we came up one game short, so I feel like that's all of our goals and I'm focused on our team's main goal."