Tuesday, January 07, 2014

James Jones: Looking Back and Looking Forward

I haven't decided about most of the Green Bay Packers's 2014 free agents, except they should pay whatever it takes to re-sign CB Sam Shields, but I was thinking about WR James Jones. In the game against the 49ers, he had two opportunities to make game changing plays and he didn't make either one. He did, however, have a legitimate excuse:
On their first drive of the 3rd quarter, 3rd and 8 from the Packers' 46 yard line, Rodgers threw a pass to the deep middle of the field that Jones was able to get his hands on but didn't catch. They punted on the next play. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Rodgers threw a deep pass along the right sidelines that Jones missed too. That one wasn't as important because on 4th down, Rodgers threw an amazing pass to WR Randall Cobb, which led to a touchdown. While both catches would have made the highlight reel had he caught them, the first one would have led to at least a field goal. A big play from him could have turned the game into a win.

While he was outstanding in both of their 2012 meetings against the 49ers, Jones went without a single target in their 2013 Week 1 game and only caught 2 of 5 passes attempts on Sunday for 20 yards. He doesn't single-handedly deserve the blame for the loss, but he wasn't part of the solution either.

As for next season, I'm expecting the Packers' will re-sign him because his price should be reasonable. When he last tested the free agent market in 2011, he appeared very marketable as he entered his late-20s and fresh off a Super Bowl win. Instead, he didn't draw much attention and returned to the Packers. While his 2012 career season was outstanding, the only stat that stood out were his touchdown receptions (14). Since 2009, he's been a very consistent (and healthy) player, so they do know what to expect from him.

I'm not expecting he'll receive much free agent interest this year either because he's now entering his early 30s and most of his value is related to the fact that he's catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. In 2013, both of his 100 yard receiving games and two of his three touchdown receptions happened when Rodgers was the QB. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it looks like he has more value to the Packers than to any other team. And the Greg Jennings situation is probably another reminder that teams shouldn't over-value Packer receivers.

If they do part ways next season, the Packers would have to look to the draft for a replacement. WR Jarrett Boykin had a better statistical season than Jones and would move into the No. 3 spot. Behind him is only WR Chris Harper, who's still looking for his first career NFL reception, and counting on him alone would be asking for trouble.

With so many holes on defense, and the fact that GM Ted Thompson should not be expected to fix the defense through the free agent market, it would be better to spend their money on an affordable veteran receiver (Jones) and using the draft pick they would have had to used on a receiver on another defensive player.

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