According to rumors, the Packers attempted to trade wide receiver James Jones prior to April’s draft. If these rumors were true – and based on where they originated, I have my doubts – then general manager Ted Thompson should thank his lucky stars that he never received an offer he couldn’t refuse. While the former San Jose State star may not have developed into the player some projected him to be following an impressive rookie campaign in 2007, he was an underrated and integral cog in an offensive machine that established franchise records for points and total yards a year ago.
Could the offense survive without Jones? Of course. With Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb, the Packers would still have an abundance of weapons in the passing game. But there’s a reason star quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the following last summer about the importance of re-signing Jones, an unrestricted free agent at the time: ”He should be priority No. 1. And I mean that with all my heart. He really should be priority No. 1. We don’t win the Super Bowl without him. And we need him. I think he’s as talented a player as we’ve got on the team, and I think his best football is in front of him. And I think he’s a valuable asset that we don’t want to get rid of.”
If you carefully study Jones during the course of a game, it’s pretty easy to see why Rodgers was so effusive in his praise. The 28-year-old has the ability to separate from defensive backs as well as any receiver on the roster. That’s why he’s been able to score 20 touchdowns in the past three seasons despite catching a modest 135 passes in limited snaps as either the third or fourth wide receiver. He’s also not afraid to throw his big body around as a downfield blocker.
What has kept and will continue to keep Jones from achieving stardom is his inconsistency. He drops too many passes, runs lazy routes at times and doesn’t always compete hard enough for the ball. That’s why other teams weren’t willing to throw big money at him a year ago. But at a cost of $2.8 million in 2012, he’s a bargain. How big of a bargain? Fellow wide receiver Donald Driver will be paid $2.3 million this season, and I feel pretty safe in predicting that no opposing defensive coordinator will feel comfortable covering Jones with a linebacker any time soon.