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Inbox: One hadn't hit like this in quite a while

They expect to feature him as a playmaker

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

Kyle from St. Charles, MO

Eventful negotiation window thus far.

Most eventful in five years around here. Mercy.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

It's taken years, but the worm has finally turned. It appears big news now breaks only when Wes is on PTO.

How 'bout that, huh?

Mark from Homewood, AL

I completely understand that the NFL is a business and the factors that entered into the decision to release Aaron Jones. But as a fan who has followed the man for the last seven seasons, this one really hurts. I have trouble remembering a player that have I admired more for his performance, leadership, philanthropy, and tremendous impact on the community and so many lives. As I've told my son, in a world where you can be anything, be Aaron Jones.

Well said, and obviously many others shared similar sentiments. This one does really hurt. The Jones news both shocked and saddened me. As I noted in this column a couple of times, the contract was an issue, but I was confident they'd work something out. I think the Packers were, too, based on Gutekunst's comments after the season and in Indy. Just goes to show you never know. Jones will go down as one of my favorite players to both watch play and cover as a media member. I've been around here a long time now, and I'll be honest, I've grown a bit numb to departures. One hadn't hit like this in quite a while.

Jeff from Littlefork, MN

I know it is a business. I have to remember it is a business. Do you have any words of condolence to make the Jones release make sense? He was such an amazing player and IS such an amazing person. Our team was better with the UTEP star on the field. How are we even BETTER with him on another team?

That stretch run last season was the best the Packers had looked on offense in two years, and Jones was a huge reason. No denying that, but ultimately this move was about the long term, not just 2024.

I don't want to speculate as to what was offered or demanded contractually, but my only read is Jones' reps feel he'll have a significantly better market out there than what the Packers were willing to pay. It's really not any more complicated than that. A player's age and injury history are major factors in times like these, and that's always weighed against leadership and other intangibles, of which there were plenty. When two sides can't come together, it's unfortunate, but both have to look out for themselves. Bigger picture, the Packers are bringing in another runner with franchise-back pedigree who's nearly four years younger, and there's no guarantee a running back of Jacobs' caliber would've been available down the road.

Jim from Eau Claire, WI

We will all miss Aaron Jones. A great player and an even better person. But Holy Free Agent Frenzy, Jacobs and McKinney. Arguably the best running back and safety available. WOW!

Obviously, I didn't see the Jacobs news coming either, and I wondered how hard the Packers would push for McKinney with so many veteran safeties available. The fast work and big money there speaks to how much the Packers believe he can accomplish in Hafley's defense. They didn't just find an experienced guy to fill a safety spot. They expect to feature him as a playmaker.

Take a look at photos of Packers RB Aaron Jones through his years in Green Bay.

Dave from Hollywood, MD

This is the part of being a fan that rips your heart out. Aaron Jones has been the heart and soul of the Packer offense and he was the one constant who bridged the Rodgers/Adams era and the Love/young receiver era. I understand players deserve to be paid their worth but, it seems, signing a large multi-year contract almost guarantees the player will be released before either the player or team prefers.

That's generally how it goes these days. That's why the actual structure and guarantees always matter more than the length of any deal.

Chris from Gridley, CA

Not a bad run for a fourth- and fifth-round pick. Very thankful for all the great memories 69 and 33 have helped provide over the years.

Bakhtiari's release was expected, but I don't think it can be overstated how remarkable it is that a fourth-round draft pick, who more than one draft guru said belonged at guard in the NFL, became a five-time All-Pro at left tackle. That's, at best, a once-in-a-generation development scenario. It's too bad Bakhtiari's ending in Green Bay unfolded like this, meaning these last three years of injury hell – an injury that I will always believe cost the Packers a Super Bowl at the time it occurred.

Joe from Wausau, WI

A gut-wrenching day for Packers fans. It is remarkable to realize though that in a span of two years the Packers have parted ways with Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones, yet they will be expected to have one of the NFL's more explosive offenses. How many other franchises could do that?

"It's a young man's game" is a cliché because it's true, and the Packers proved it down the stretch last year.

David from Janesville, WI

According to my research (which could be wrong) the label of oldest offensive player on the Packers goes to … Elgton Jenkins. Wow.

Is the youngest team in the NFL in 2023 going to be even younger in 2024? That's what I keep wondering.

Tom from Lisbon, WI

Will you be able to comment on any signings that are reported during this early negotiating window? Or do you have to wait for contracts to become official on Wednesday? On an "unrelated" note, what struck you about Josh Jacobs when the Packers played the Raiders last year?

We can discuss the news in our little community here, but we won't have any headlines on our website until the contracts are signed, sealed and delivered. In the two times I've seen Jacobs play against the Packers (2019 and last year), what stood out is his power. He packs a punch and still has pretty nimble feet for a 225-pound back.

Don from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Soooo, now that running back has been addressed, do you think the draft will lean towards defense and a couple of offensive linemen?

Gutey is doing what he often does – making sure he's not boxed into a corner with a screaming need in the draft so he can comfortably take best available and maximize his draft capital. I would still expect the Packers to target running backs and a safety next month, with depth at edge rusher, off-ball linebacker and offensive line to also be addressed.

Brandon from Summerville, SC

Mike, after today's Inbox they're going to have to add therapist to your job title.

Not how I go about it, but if anything I've said is helpful, you're welcome.

Matt from Fitchburg, WI

To slightly alter the quote of a certain blue fish, just keep breathing.

In the NFL, the world never stops turning. And with that, the rest of this column will be the portion I worked on before Monday turned into a crazy news day.

Take a look at photos of Packers T David Bakhtiari through his years in Green Bay.

Robert from Saginaw, MI

I would like to add to your answer to Chris concerning salary. Future guaranteed money must be held by the team in escrow. That is why generating revenue from places like Titletown and having cash on hand are so important for the Packers, since we don't have an owner with millions available for those types of contracts.

True. The Packers also have a very hefty corporate reserve fund backing up the franchise and its entire operation, but the idea is to never have to actually tap it.

George from Edinburg, VA

Mike's response to Chris from Waukesha, WI of "...and 95% over a four-year period for the league, per the CBA" made me wonder, how does the league equitably require teams to spend more, considering each team's available cap space and four-year ratio?

It's not a league mandate, it's a stipulation in the CBA on the part of the players' union. I don't know the remedy if any team, or the league as a whole, doesn't spend the four-year minimum, because as far as I know that's never happened. But the union would somehow collect any unspent money below the salary floor.

Marshall from Mesa, AZ

With the complicated rules on how money is allocated to the salary cap, does the league employ their own accountants to verify the teams' accounting? Seems like without some oversight, there may be a temptation to "Belichick" the books, or at least deflate some salaries.

Every single contract goes through the league office. Nobody gets to hide anything.

Tony from Chanhassen, MN

I hear the Packers may release De'Vondre Campbell, but will wait until Wednesday. Is there a salary cap reason to wait?

Yes. By waiting until Wednesday, the official start of the new league year, the Packers can use the post-June 1 designation for cap purposes, which I explained in Monday's column. I believe the cap space isn't actually created until June 1, though I could be wrong on that.

Jason from Austin, TX

I'm assuming the "post-June 1 cut" is just a formality and not a literal thing, right? Like, a player that has a post-June 1 cut designation can go out and sign with another team already, right?

Correct. Once he's released, he's a free agent. Sort of like dead money, post-June 1 is just a cap accounting concept.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Your response to Craig about comparable rebuilding teams to GB sure contains a caveat. Yes, the Bengals surprised everyone by making the SB in 2021, but then despite a better record couldn't make it back in '22 and missed the playoffs entirely in '23. How do you evaluate the Bengals' strengths going forward? Were they a two-season wonder? Is there a lesson for the Packers or Packers fans?

They made it back to the AFC title game in '22 and lost on a last-second field goal. Then Joe Burrow missed almost half of last season. Call that a caveat if you want to, I guess.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

I find it interesting that the most scrutinized position, quarterback, seems to be the toughest to predict future failure or success. Look at all the high picks who were busts and the lower picks who turned out to be great. BTW, the scouting service to which I subscribe says Jayden Daniels is a better prospect than Caleb Williams.

It's difficult to predict future failure or success because, at least in part, it's the most complicated position to play, and the difference in complications from the college level to the NFL level is greater than at any other spot.

Michael from Thomson, IL

In the playoff game against the 49ers after the missed field goal, the defense gave up a game-winning drive. Does Coach Hafley's defense just need to come up with a memorable stop to win a game?

More than once, I would hope. Crunch-time performance is everything in this business. I don't know how to stress that any more than I already do.

Jeremy from Montreal, Canada

The header of your Friday column was about a good deal to be had. Has anyone ever gotten a better deal than the Steelers got with Wilson? They get to pay him the vet minimum, gave up zero picks, and if he plays himself into another meaningful deal for another team after 2024 they get a comp pick. I have no idea how he'll perform there, but have you ever seen so much upside and downside protection in one deal?

No, but Wilson still being paid – not cap accounting, but actual cash – $39M in guaranteed money from his former is not a normal situation.

Paul from Hewitt, WI

What time of the year do things slow down for the area scouts?

In the summer, right before colleges start fall training camps, is probably their most significant break in the calendar year.

Kent from Anamosa, IA

Hi Mike. If most NFL teams pick best available football player in the draft (minus QBs in the first round), why doesn't the NFL allow the draft first, where teams pick the best talent, then open up the NFL free agency for teams to fill their needs? Instead of the way they do it now.

Great question. ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote a really interesting story addressing this two years ago. The gist is that when NFL free agency first started 30 years ago, nobody anticipated the availability of veteran talent becoming the frenzy it is today. It was thought to involve a limited number of players (as it had in the league's original attempt with Plan B free agency from 1989-92), a few signings would happen quickly, and everyone would return to draft preparation. Also, Seifert explained teams were reluctant back then to move up the draft because of wanting until late April to get fully prepared. Teams could definitely conduct the draft sooner now, but nobody's ever discussed changing it. The league has sort of gotten locked into its February (Super Bowl)-March (free agency)-April (draft) pattern.

Chuck from Richfield, WI

Mike, I thoroughly enjoyed every Q&A from your Monday Inbox. I loved your answer to the great question from Dan of MN. I also had not heard of the term "Draft Industrial Complex" but it took me back to those dark days 50 years ago when seemingly every Packer pick was a sleeper (Barry and Barty Smith No. 1?). I think we even drafted a guy in 1974 who later became a serial killer. What was your top cringeworthy pick in your time that validated your suspicions?

I've never considered myself a draft expert and have always figured you have to let it all play out. But when the Packers, in the first round, drafted a corner who was barely 5-10 in 2004 (Ahmad Carroll) and a defensive lineman with a history of back problems in 2007 (Justin Harrell), I had my doubts. That said, I also thought Jamal Reynolds was going to be a great pass rusher and there was no reason to draft Aaron Rodgers when you still had Brett Favre. So I've learned a lot along the way.

Kevin from Hermansville, MI

Maybe if your approach to the draft room was to make it clear … really clear … crystal … that you need to be on that wall, would you then be in grave danger? As if there is another kind!

Happy Tuesday.

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