Friday, March 22, 2013

Surprisingly, The Packers Re-Sign Brad Jones For A Lot Of Money

Because of season ending injuries to ILB Desmond Bishop and ILB D.J. Smith, the Green Bay Packers were forced to go to their third option, and they gave fourth year LB Brad Jones ten starts (plus two playoff games) at inside linebacker. He was rarely on the highlight reel, but he did a solid job and I expected some linebacker needy team would overpay him to start next season. I wasn't expecting that team would be the Packers.
The deal also included a $3 million signing bonus, which is more than I would have ever expected him to receive. While I've started out kicking the Packers for overspending on a former backup, this kind of reminds me of two years ago when the Packers surprisingly re-signed WR James Jones. He too was given a chance to test the market and he didn't find any better offers. His contract, and production, over the past couple seasons has worked out very well for everyone involved. A $3 million signing bonus is a lot, but it's less than the $8 million bonus LB A.J. Hawk received two years ago.

Jones's stats weren't too impressive in 2012 (77 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 pass defenses, 1 forced fumble), but the guys over at Pro Football Focus have been saying good things about him all year. When they ranked the free agent linebackers before the start of free agency, he was ranked as their third best linebacker available. The only linebacker with a higher grade last season was Philip Wheeler, who received a surprising 5 year, $26 million contract from the Dolphins. Pro Football Focus gave Jones high marks against the run and in coverage, and an inside linebacker who can do both well is a valuable player.

Still, there are a lot of concerns here. Jones began the 2012 season behind three other players at inside linebacker, and he wasn't even being considered at outside linebacker anymore. Last season might have been his ceiling, a career best in a contract year, and it might have been better to find an impact player in the draft. Also, GM Ted Thompson has a bad habit of giving long-term contracts to linebackers who haven't been worth it (Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar, A.J. Hawk).

Jones's play on the field last year earned him the chance to start, but I rather it have been another team. Still, you can't guarantee they'll find an immediate starter in the draft, and I wasn't really eager to see Bishop return as the starter next season, his performance dropped off in 2011 even before his injury, so they probably made the right decision by choosing Jones over Bishop. Hawk's recently restructured deal probably keeps him secure and I don't expect the Packers will pay both Jones and Bishop like starters. It's a lateral move for a defense that needed to get better, but since Jones wasn't directly part of the problem on defense, maybe he can become part of something better next season.

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