Green Bay’s head coach, Matt LaFleur, came into the offseason assuming that running back Aaron Jones would still be on his roster. However, the Packers decided to cut Jones and sign former Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs as his replacement.

“It kind of caught me off guard, to be honest with you,” LaFleur said. “There were some other things in play, obviously with Aaron Jones, and I didn’t quite know how everything was going to go. It just happened really fast on that Monday.”

Green Bay attempted to resign Jones to a lower salary than last year but made no gains. Jones instead chose to sign a one-year $7 million deal with the division rival Minnesota Vikings. In his place, the Packers signed Jacobs to a four-year $48 million contract, making him the sixth-highest-paid rusher in the league.

“We’re working toward that solution, but sometimes things just don’t work out,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said about releasing Jones. “I don’t blame him. He’s always done right by us. It was one of those tough moments.”

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The Packers drafted Jones in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He only started 12 games in his first two seasons but became the team’s first option in 2019 once LaFleur took over as head coach. In the past five seasons with LaFleur, Jones went on to start in every game he played while rushing for an average of 952 yards and five total touchdowns per season. He scored a career-high 16 rushing touchdowns in 2019 and had at least three seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards, while Green Bay made the playoffs all but one of those years.

On the most recent episode of the podcast This is Football, LeFleur was asked about some of the toughest players he ever coached. In his response, LeFleur recalled when Jones suffered an MCL sprain against the Chargers earlier in the year and his ability to return.

“Aaron Jones is a bad—football player. For a guy that’s 190 pounds, it’s just the beating that the runners take in general. I mean, it’s like a car crash every time they get tackled,” LaFleur said.” I still don’t know how he didn’t get severely injured on that play. His ability to come back later in the year and what he could do, I would say that was pretty bad—.”

Due to the injury, Jones only appeared in 11 games for the Packers in 2023, finishing with nearly career-low numbers of 656 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Following the down year, the Packers looked to move on as they now bring in Jacobs from Las Vegas.

Jacobs was the league’s leading rusher in 2022 with 1653 yards, a few years younger than the 29-year-old Jones. In his five-year career, compared to Jones’ seven, Jacobs has scored more rushing touchdowns in 24 fewer games while averaging 15 more yards per game.

“I just think when you look at his body of work, his play style, his running style, he’ll excel [in all situations],” LaFleur said about Jacobs. “There are some things we can do in the pass game as well, get him out in the backfield.”

The importance of running backs in the NFL continues to sway, but at $12 million a year, the Packers have high hopes for their new starter.

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