Packers Beer Mug Perspective: The James Jones Void

In each of the past three regular season games for the Green Bay Packers, Jordy Nelson has received more targets from Aaron Rodgers than he has ever had in a game. He had 16 targets and 9 receptions against the New York Jets, 14 targets and 9 receptions against the Seattle Seahawks, and 16 targets and 10 receptions against the Chicago Bears at the end of last season. Across those three games, he netted 453 yards, 16.2 yards per reception, and one touchdown.

While those numbers are quite impressive, they are part of the argument against the Packers quality depth at wide receiver. Aaron Rodgers is known to spread the ball around, yet over the past two games he seemed to be zeroing in on Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. In fact, those were the only two wide receivers he even targeted in Week 1 against the Seahawks. Rookie draft pick Davante Adams and third-year wideout Jarret Boykin finally saw a decent share of targets against the Jets, though Boykin was essentially benched in favor of Adams during the game.

This has raised some red flags for fans. Can the Packers continue to be a dominant offense with these question marks at third and fourth wide receiver? Sure, there’s long-term potential, but there needs to be more short-term reliability with some tough games on the schedule. The void left by veteran receiver James Jones still has some empty spaces that need to be filled.

My question this week, then, is this:

Was it a good idea for Ted Thompson to let James Jones walk away in free agency?

In this installment of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, we’ll take a look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half empty” or “half full.”


Despite being with the Green Bay Packers for seven years, James Jones never really rose above the third receiver position. Guys like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, and eventually Randall Cobb would get the lion’s share of targets from the quarterback. Sure, Jones would get bumped up to the second tier when one of those guys would get injured, but otherwise he was at the bottom of the top.

And really, that’s where he belonged. He’s a good receiver, but he isn’t a great one. In fact, Jones has had some significantly rough spots with the Packers team over the years. Known for his multitude of dropped passes (41 total over 7 years), he hit rock bottom in 2010. Jones quickly became the goat for the Packers’ loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 3, when he fumbled away the offense’s opportunity for the final go-ahead scoring drive.

It didn’t even seem like Ted Thompson was that high on keeping Jones around. The Packers General Manager let Jones test free agency in 2011, though he wasn’t able to land a contract outside of Green Bay. Even though the contract lockout made it tough for free agents that offseason, it was clear how little Jones was valued across the league. So he ended up back with the Packers on a three-year contract.

Now the Packers offense has Davante Adams and Jeff Janis waiting in the wings alongside Jarret Boykin. Keeping James Jones would have meant having one of those players subjected to waivers and possibly ending up on another team. Would the comfort of having Jones been worth the loss of replacements with ceilings yet to be seen? Or was Ted Thompson making the right move in moving on?


The Oakland Raiders now have James Jones under a three-year, $10 million contract, with $3.65 million guaranteed and an extra $1.3 million in incentives. So far, despite the Raiders’ 0-2 start, James Jones has been one of their biggest blessings on offense. His 17 targets, 12 receptions, 146 yards, and two touchdowns lead the team. He’s even made the highlight reels with his catches. After starting with the team as a second string receiver, Jones has clearly become the number one option.

We’ll have to wait and see if Jones’ production with Derek Carr and the Raiders continues, but this type of play shouldn’t be all that surprising. Regardless of his troubles in the past, James Jones left Green Bay on an upward trend. In 2012, he caught 14 touchdown passes, the most of any player in the NFL that year. He had his highest target count during his last two seasons (98 and 93, respectively), and his dropped passes decreased to just four in 2012 and three in 2013.

We also can’t forget how Aaron Rodgers – right or wrong – went to bat for James Jones during his 2011 free agency period. Even though Jones had some rough performances the season prior, Rodgers still had a lot of confidence in his ability. We also saw this preseason how much value the Packers quarterback puts in a guy’s ability to know the system and run the correct routes. He trusted Jones, which is something we can’t say yet for guys like Adams or Janis.

Would the Packers have avoided Richard Sherman so visibly if James Jones were part of the receiving corps? Would Rodgers have been able to throw the ball more quickly against the Jets with Jones in the mix? It’s hard to say for sure, but under Mike McCarthy’s offensive system, it’s not just about getting open as a receiver. It’s about doing your part to draw coverage and help the play develop as it should. For all their future potential, the rookie receivers just aren’t that reliable yet.


To say that James Jones has been a polarizing figure among Packers fans would be an understatement. And to be honest, I started writing this article with my mind made up that Thompson’s decision to let Jones walk away was a poor one. The more I wrote, though, and considered the situation, the more I convinced myself that it might just have been the right decision.

First and foremost, this was not completely a financial decision by the Packers front office. They could have easily matched the Oakland Raiders’ offer. Jones’ three-year, $10 million contract is but a fraction of Jordy Nelson’s five-year, $43 million contract.

That said, would it have been wise to lock up money for a few years on an aging wide receiver? And more importantly, would it have been wise to lock up that position?

Davante Adams and Jeff Janis have a lot of growing to do before they become truly reliable options in the Packers offense; however, in order to grow, they need opportunities. They wouldn’t see the field much at all with Nelson, Cobb, and Jones all on the active game day roster. No matter how much time they get on the practice field, you just can’t mimic the live action experience and wisdom that comes from it.

This is the big trade-off that Ted Thompson had to make. He’s risking the short-term effectiveness of the wide receivers with the long-term development of his younger players. Along with that, there’s the hope that these rookies will end up with a higher ceiling than Jones in the long run. It’s a long season, and as the old adage goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

So in spite of my original intentions, I see this decision with the mug as half full. I’m happy that James Jones has found personal success with the Oakland Raiders, but it was time to move on and let some new players in. The future of the Packers will depend on it.


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


12 thoughts on “Packers Beer Mug Perspective: The James Jones Void

  1. Analysts say, that WR don’t really blossom till year 2, (though seems there are more, and more exceptions). My guess is that this isn’t the year of a superbowl push, or Front Office would have kept JJ, and brought in another free agent or so at TE or ILB considering all holes on the team last year, and the fact that front office chose to address the Safety position via draft rather than Free Agency. It seems to me Front Office is angling for a SuperBowl run in 2015. Accordingly, letting JJ go would be the right move. But if FrontOffice believed the team was ready for a superbowl run this year…then should have retained JJ.

  2. There is one really big wild card in your argument, If TT had kept Jones then he almost certainly would not have drafted three receivers. So the argument about Adams wasting away behind Nelson, Cobb and Jones is probably moot. There is at least a decent chance that TT would have addressed some other position with his second round pick instead of taking Adams. The same goes for the possibility of “losing” a guy like Janis. So who knows how things might have been different if Jones were still a Packer?

    Time will tell, I guess. All I can really say is that I was fine with letting Jones walk at the time that it happened. I haven’t seen enough yet to convince me that I was wrong. And this: If there is one area of the team where TT deserves the trust of the fanbase, it’s at wide receiver. He’s got a pretty great track record there, I would say… not only for drafting well, but also for letting guys go.

    1. You make a good point. Something to consider, though, is the long-term projection of the position. Even if TT kept Jones and didn’t draft two WRs, he still has to have a plan for when Jones (and Nelson, really) eventually do leave. Who will be there to take over, and how ready will they be? In that respect, it’s also a matter of timing. When do you pull the plug on the older guys?

      1. Totally agree, Chad, and I think that was a strong contributing factor in why TT decided to let Jones walk. You’ve got to have young blood coming up.

  3. The Packers can be loyal to a fault…until they’re not. They stuck with JJ when he was dropping everything, and then let him walk when he wasn’t. We’re seeing something similar with guys like Boykin and Sherrod. I’m not sure how wise it is to throw new guys into the deep end of the pool, but it remains true that it takes a long time to get yourself removed from a GBP lineup.
    As to the comment about gearing up for a SB run NEXT year, that would be extremely disconcerting, if true. Save for a true rebuilding year, which doesn’t happen much these days, the NFL is much too mercurial to be holding back. Rodgers has good years in front of him, but they are finite.

  4. What has TT said: it’s better to let a guy go a year early than to keep him a year late? For a guy like Jones–where speed really wasn’t his game–when the legs start to go, he’s done. I don’t see the decline in someone like Jordy Nelson being as precipitous. Jones is tough: he played a big chunk of last season with a bad wheel, but that’s not going to make up for it when he’s losing steps.

    He looks good so far this year, but teams are asking Carr to beat them and not MJD/McFadden. He’s the best of a middling lot out there, but for how long? Resigning Jones would’ve maintained good, established depth at WR for the Packers, but it gets old all at once…and then what?

  5. I don’t see a strong link between the departure of James Jones and our inconsistent offense. Jones was always a number 3 receiver and will be easily replaced with Boykin and/or Adams. If this offense is faultering it is because our O-line is weaker than it has ever been and/or MM has handicapped it with his playcalling.

    By mid October the offense should be comfortable with each other and performing at a high level. Then it will be up to the O-line to control the line of scrimmage and allow Rodgers to dictate the game. Hopefully, MM gets the TEs into the picture and we evolve beyond a 7 step drop and sideline pass.

  6. I think while letting Jones go isn’t devastating, we will need him when we face the big dogs. Hopefully Boykin, Janis and Adams will have all developed enough to where they can effectively replace Jones and will make a major contribute to defeating teams like the Seahawks and the Niners in the playoffs. But I wouldn’t count on that nearly as much as I would count on Jones being able to help Rodgers and the offense during a game like that.

    This also raises the question whether or not the Packer should resign Finley the football player. But if they were gonna do it, they would have done it already. At this point, the only chance he gets resigned is if Bostick simply doesn’t work out.

  7. Though I liked JJ,and like many thought that based on Boykins’ play and what seemed a somewhat steady growth and a factor in letting JJ walk,the 3rd WR spot would be his to lose.

    However,after watching how McCarthy planned for use of him vs Seattle as a mannequin to ‘supposedly’ attempt to make Sherman (ahem) follow Nelson,it seems more likely the beginning of making him a last season clone of Driver as a 3rd down possession/decoy WR at best.Sure he may still get the opportunity to get some passes but his growth seemed to end as quick as his growth started but Adams is clearly MM’s want as the 3rd WR.

    I have no worries about the WR group unless the play calling,as like vs Seattle rears its ugly head again,via McCarthy showing a lack of trust or being scared(your choice) of another teams #1 CB, while attempting to show such absolute trust in the defensive play of some.

    There is no void in the WR group nor the RB group and while there are chants of dismay with the TE’s and the start of a new Finley talk,the answer for that lies with the Tackle play and the inability to make it an island or just a once in awhile habitat and that will be a major concern/issue that allows the Lions to appear dominant.

    Last week I said Sherrod needed to wear his big boy pants vs the Jets and a fraction of the snaps he appeared to have them on,but a fraction here and there isn’t enough and a hobbled Bulaga may offer just as little. 🙂

  8. So folks, then, why is Aaron Rodgers holding the ball so long, taking sacks, or tossing the ball away, for not finding open receivers besides Jordy? Opposing teams seem to be finding plenty of space underneath with lesser quarterbacks. We keep say, “that departing player doesn’t cause much drop off”…but what about the accumulation of a bunch of players that individually don’t cause much drop off…but collectively erode to where we don’t seem to get the open receivers like back in the Driver-Jennings-Jones-Nelson days.

  9. Agree with comments below that TT might not have drafted 3 WRs had he kept Jones. IDK how much he liked Adams, but it might well be that Abbrederis or Janis would be the one not drafted rather than Adams. No way to know, really. I might have wanted Jones back for 1 year, but not for 3. It is not too surprising that Jones is doing well: he has some talent and is now the number one option.

    I also agree with the comment below that it is way too early to assess Adams and Janis. I went back to 1999: of all the drafted WRs (inc. Javon Walker, a 1st rounder, only Jennings and James Jones did much in their rookie years. Most had 20 to 30 receptions for 200 to 366 yards. Jennings and Jones each caught over 40 passes for over 600 yards.

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