Aaron Jones Clay Matthews Matt LaFleur Brian Gutekunst Green Bay Packers News

Aaron Jones Clay Matthews Matt LaFleur Brian Gutekunst Green Bay Packers News


Former Packers running back Aaron Jones.

Green Bay Packers legend Clay Matthews does not seem happy to learn about the “lack of communication” between general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur over the release of star running back Aaron Jones.

Last week, LaFleur revealed at the annual NFL league meetings in Florida that he was “caught off guard” by the team’s decision to move on from Jones on March 11 and sign 2022 NFL rushing champion Josh Jacobs to a long-term contract as his replacement.

As LaFleur explained, he does not know “all the details” behind Jones’ release because he is “not involved in those types of conversations” with the Packers’ front office.

Matthews, however, finds it “wild” that Gutekunst would leave LaFleur out of the loop given his success — five winning seasons in four years — and Jones’ value to the team.

“With a rookie* QB, young receiving corp and [Christian] Watson injured, Jones WAS GBs offense. He even took a pay cut to stay with the team in 2023!” Matthews wrote on X. “But I digress. I find the lack of communication between HC and GM to be wild. LaFleur has been one of the most successful coaches and doesn’t have a say!?”

Packers Had Financial Reasons for Cutting Aaron Jones

Matthew is right to question Gutekunst’s process. While he is responsible for making personnel decisions, it is a little odd he did not clue in his head coach about his plans to move on from someone Gutekunst himself has called “the heart and soul” of their team.

In terms of the decision itself, though, it is not hard to see why Gutekunst cut Jones.

Jones would have cost nearly $17.6 million against the salary cap in 2024, which would have ranked second-most among running backs behind Alvin Kamara ($18.55 million). Even if Jones had not missed six games in 2023, that would have been a difficult figure for the Packers to justify without some type of adjustment.

According to The Atheltic’s Matt Schneidman, the Packers attempted to solve the problem by asking Jones to take a pay cut of “almost 50%, if not more” in the final year of his contract. Jones’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, spent the weeks leading up to free agency trying to negotiate a better arrangement, but he ultimately rejected their final offer on March 8, three days before free agent negotiations began.

Without a reduction in Jones’ cap number, the Packers had a clear financial decision to make with him. They released him on the first morning of negotiations and saved about $5.2 million in cap space, quickly working to sign Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million contract.

Still, given Schneidman’s timeline of events, it remains unclear why Gutekunst did not communicate with LaFleur about Jones in the two days before they agreed to terms with Jacobs. The Packers also took on nearly $12.4 million in dead cap for cutting Jones, which — when combined with Jacobs’ $5.3 million cap hit in 2024 — costs the Packers a little more than it would have to just pay Jones.

Packers Explored RB Trade Market Before 2023 Season

Understandably, some fans felt blindsided by the Packers’ decision to release Jones in March. It did not help that, a few months earlier, Gutekunst had given them a false sense of security when he said he “absolutely” expected Jones to return for 2024.

For the careful observers, though, the writing might have been on the wall as early as last August when the Packers first showed interest in another veteran running back.

According to ESPN’s Stephen Holder, the Packers were “in talks with the [Indianapolis] Colts and had legitimate interest” in trading for superstar Jonathan Taylor before the Colts’ self-imposed deadline for trade offers on August 29. Separately, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson confirmed his report and added the Packers had been willing to pay Taylor a contract that would have “placed him among the highest-paid running backs.”

Ultimately, the Colts kept Taylor and signed him to a three-year, $42 million extension in October, but it speaks volumes that the Packers took such a heavy interest in a high-profile running back with both Jones and AJ Dillon still on their roster at the time.

Jordan J. Wilson is a sports reporter who covers the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals for Heavy.com. He has previously covered all levels of sports — high school, college and pro — for a variety of publications including The Indianapolis Star, The News-Gazette, Springfield State-Journal Register and Peoria Journal Star. More about Jordan J. Wilson

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