Thursday Thoughts: Great Company
I finally have the time to do extensive scouting reports on new players, so I should’ve known GM Brian Gutekunst wouldn’t sign a single free agent in the first three weeks of free agency. There are still some bargains to be had, but it appears the Packers will be relying on holdovers and the upcoming draft to fill holes on both lines and at cornerback. Here are three more Packers-related thoughts that ran through my head the past few days:
1) It’s easy to get overwhelmed by statistics, but here’s one that deserves even more attention than it’s been getting – Aaron Jones and Jim Brown are the only players in the history of the National Football League to rush for at least 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns while averaging at least 5 yards per carry over their first four seasons. Think about that for a minute. The NFL has been around for over a century, and a 5-foot-9 running back drafted in the fifth round shares an accomplishment with one of the most legendary names in the sport. And while no one would ever suggest Jones is in the same class as Brown, it certainly strengthens the argument that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as any running back playing today. It also makes the 4-year, $48 million contract he signed before the start of free agency – which is really a 2-year deal worth $20 million – seem like even more of a bargain.
How does a running back keep his average over 5 yards per carry? By being able to make something out of nothing. On this play against the New Orleans Saints from last September, Jones (#33) uses vision, balance, and speed to turn what should’ve been no gain into 13 yards and a first down.
2) Once All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams signs an extension – which will almost certainly happen sometime before September – ascending tight end Robert Tonyan will be the only key player eligible for unrestricted free agency a year from now. That’ll give Gutekunst plenty of time to negotiate with All-Pro corner Jaire Alexander and Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins, two young stars whose contracts expire after the 2022 season. Getting a deal done with Alexander figures to be the higher priority since his cap number in ’22 will be over $13 million thanks to the fifth-year option the team will pick up next month. Conversely, Jenkins’ cap number in ’22 is only $2.15 million.
3) In an offseason filled with surprises, perhaps the biggest is that Dean Lowry and his $6.4 million cap hit are still around. That’s the seventh-highest number on the team – a team on which there were at least 20 better players last season. The former Northwestern star isn’t a bad defensive end; he’s just not worth close to what he’s getting paid. The 26-year-old is average against the run and limited as a pass rusher (3 sacks and 15 hurries in nearly 700 snaps). At a time when Gutekunst and vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball are working hard to clear space, it’s difficult to explain their inactivity when it comes to the most bloated cap number on the entire roster.