Packers coach ‘caught off guard’ by Green Bay’s signing of Josh Jacobs - Sport News

Packers coach ‘caught off guard’ by Green Bay’s signing of Josh Jacobs

Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur didn’t expect to have Josh Jacobs as the Packers’ No. 1 running back in the 2024 season.

“It kind of caught me off guard, too, to be honest with you,” LaFleur said while attending the NFL’s annual meeting. “There were some other things in play, obviously, with Aaron Jones. I didn’t quite know how everything was going to go. It just happened really fast on that Monday when they were allowed to talk to those guys. It happened really fast, so I don’t know all the details of that.”

For the second year in a row, Green Bay tried to get Jones, the Packers’ leading rusher in five of the past six seasons, to take a pay cut. In 2023, Jones took a salary reduction from $16 million to $11 million. But this time around, the running back declined the team’s request.

That caused Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst to look for alternatives with NFL free agency starting. On March 11, the first day of the negotiating period, the Packers reached an agreement with Jacobs and released Jones.

“Not until we got down to a certain point with Aaron when we realized this might be more problematic than we thought did we turn our attention to really studying those guys and maybe seeing if that was going to be an opportunity or not,” Gutekunst said.

Jacobs joined Green Bay for a four-year, $48 million contract that included a $12.5 million signing bonus, which is the guaranteed portion of the contract.

“Obviously, he’s a very proven back,” Gutekunst said. “He runs with a lot of violence, explosiveness. He’s a bigger back, a durable back for the most part. He’s a guy that can really flourish in all phases – as a runner, as a blocker and certainly as a pass-catcher. Really excited to have not only the player but the person added to our football team.”

Jacobs ran for 5,545 yards and 46 touchdowns and added 1,448 receiving yards in his five seasons with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. The former Alabama standout led the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards and 2,053 yards from scrimmage as he earned first-team All-Pro recognition for the 2022 season. Jacobs also was Pro Bowler in 2020.

“The first thing that jumps off to me is just his play style,” LaFleur said. “He is a tough, hard-nosed – he can be a high-volume guy. Just studying him, I think there’s more out there for him in regards to the passing game, using him out of the backfield. He’s put some really good choice routes on tape, and that’s something that we always try to get to. We’ve done it a little bit more down in the red area.

“But I love the person, just being around him in that brief time when he came into Green Bay. It’s not a shocker to me why he wore a ‘C’ on his jersey. You can just see the kind of person he is.”

LaFleur said Jones’ production on the field was only part of what the Packers lost when they released the running back.

“That’s really tough, not only the football player but the man,” LaFleur said. “We’ve spoken so many times about how much he brought to our team that probably will never show up on the stat sheet in terms of just being a veteran presence in the locker room. He’s always been team-first. He walks the walk. He’s just such a pro, so I think that’s always tough to replace.”

Jones’ top total for rushing attempts came in 2019, when he recorded 236. Jacobs has exceeded that in three of his five seasons, with a high of 340 in 2022, and he had 233 in 13 games in 2023.

While acknowledging Jacobs’ workhorse ability, LaFleur prefers that the Packers don’t have to rely it on. While Green Bay let Jones go, they re-signed his backup, AJ Dillon.

“I think you have to have multiple backs in this league,” LaFleur said. “Those guys take a beating. Now, it’s always a luxury when you have a guy that can take those number of carries and be a high-volume guy, but I don’t really see it changing much in how we want to use our backs. I always think it’s a marathon. The NFL season is a marathon, and you need your best players healthy, especially at the end of the season. And then kind of like a season ago, when your back’s against the ropes, so to speak, then you kind of unleash it and you got to do whatever you got to do to win.

“But I think that’s a luxury for us. He is capable of carrying the ball that many times.”

 

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