Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams (and their 3,824 snaps) tough for Packers to replace

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have been constants in the Green Bay Packers' backfield for four years. Even drafting AJ Dillon in the second round last year didn't change that.

Those days might be over.

Jones and Williams are set to hit free agency next month and neither has been able to come close to a deal with the Packers.

From the Packers' perspective, they got plenty of mileage and perhaps more than could have been expected out of the two third-day picks from the 2017 draft.

Combined, the two running backs played almost 4,000 snaps for the Packers over the past four seasons. In Jones' pair of 1,000-yard seasons the past two years he played 1,366 of his 1,978 career snaps (including playoffs). Williams has been first or second on the team in running back snaps each of his four seasons, totaling 1,846 career snaps.

Neither one looks like a good bet to return.

Jones received several proposals from the Packers, sources told ESPN, and while they offered an average-per-year salary that would have ranked among the top backs in the NFL, the guaranteed money was low. Jones and those close to him grew frustrated and thought a different voice might help, so he changed agents, hiring Drew Rosenhaus, late last season.

While talks went on with Jones, the Packers never made an offer to Williams, who also has split with his agent. Williams hired Bardia Ghahremani on Monday. A source said the agent change wasn't because of the lack of interest from the Packers but rather because Williams wanted a non-NFLPA certified representative to join his official agent and take part of the standard 3% agent fee but the original agent declined that arrangement, so they went their separate ways.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst wouldn't say whether he would use the franchise tag to retain Jones. OverTheCap.com projected the running back franchise tag at $11.112 million for 2021.

"I'm not going to get into any of those specifics, but I will say we'd love to have Aaron back," Gutekunst said after the season. "He was such an important part of our offense this year. He's a dynamic player and he's absolutely everything we want in a professional football player -- the way he goes about his business, the way he takes care of himself, he's a great teammate.

"We'd certainly like to bring him back. Obviously, there's some challenges. As we go through the next few months, I think we'll be able to get some of those things to see if that's going to be a possibility."

It all leaves running back as a need heading into the offseason. Dillon played 122 snaps as a rookie but showed enough to convince the Packers he's capable of being a starter. His signature moment was a 124-yard, two-touchdown game against the Titans in Week 16. Even if Dillon becomes the Packers' No. 1 back, they will need depth and backs who are more adept at catching the ball out of the backfield than the bull-dozing Dillon was as a rookie.

Gutekunst picked Dillon in the second round. Williams was a fourth-round pick and Jones a fifth-rounder in 2017, both selected by the late Ted Thompson in his final draft.

Coach Matt LaFleur liked having a trio of capable backs to choose from depending on the opponent and the game plan.

"We feel good about that room, the running back room with all three of those guys," LaFleur said heading into the NFC Championship Game. "Also, [it helps] trying to give defenses different looks, throwing different personnel groupings, trying to keep them a little bit more off-balance. So those guys have done a great job with that but it could change each week."

No one played 100% of the Packers' offensive snaps this past season, but Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins came close -- missing only the final two plays (both kneel-downs) in Week 7 against the Texans. The Packers used 32 players on offense, three more than they played in each of the past two seasons.

Below is this season's playing-time breakdown on offense (the defensive report will come later in the week). For comparison, last season's offensive snap totals can be found here.

Total offensive plays (including playoffs): 1,185


Running backs

  • Aaron Jones: 608 (51.3%)

  • Jamaal Williams: 481 (40.6%)

  • Tyler Ervin: 142 (12.0%)

  • AJ Dillon: 122 (10.3%)

  • Dexter Williams: 7 (0.6%)


Tight ends

Offensive line