Aaron Jones has added more explosiveness to the Packers' running game
Since 2010, the Green Bay Packers have been one of the better teams in the NFL (even with the struggles of the last two seasons). Over the past nine seasons, the team has posted a record of 89-53-2, won five NFC North division titles, an NFC championship, Super Bowl XLV, and made seven straight playoff appearances from 2010-16. One thing that the Packers don't always do, however, is open up the checkbook. Especially when it comes to free agent spending.
Heading into 2019, the Packers have some players who are in need of a pay raise. These are players who have played a role during at least parts of their recent success, and they've established themselves as consistent performers in the NFL. Here are three players in particular who deserve big money in their next contracts.
Blake Martinez, LB
The 2016 fourth-round pick out of Stanford is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. He's set to make $2.25 million (per Spotrac) this season, and unlike some rookie deals, Martinez does not have an option year for 2020. So Martinez is set to be an unrestricted free agent next year. At the very least an extension is in order for Martinez as he's brought stability to the linebacker position over the last couple of years. Martinez' emergence is one reason why Clay Matthews is no longer in Green Bay, as the Packers chose not to re-sign the franchise's all-time sacks leader this offseason, giving him the opportunity to join the Rams as a free agent.
No player has more tackles over the last two seasons than Martinez, who has racked up 288 stops, to go along with six sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, an interception, and 11 pass deflections during that span. Martinez has gone from being somewhat of an afterthought to a key piece of Green Bay's defense and should be paid accordingly.
Aaron Jones, RB
When you have Aaron Rodgers on your team, running the ball doesn't seem that important, but it's something that can't be completely forgotten either. The good news for Rodgers is that he may finally have a weapon he can hand the ball to in Jones.
The 2017 fifth-round pick out of UTEP saw his role expand last season and he showed what he can do when given the chance, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and scoring nine total touchdowns in 12 games. He was suspended the first two games of the season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and the missed the last two because of a knee injury. In between, however, he was effective and at times explosive, providing the Packers' offense with another element.
Jones has two years left on his rookie deal, which maxes out at $735,000 in base salary in 2020. Provided he can stay healthy (and out of trouble), Jones will more than likely outperform his contract. Even with Rodgers at the helm, new head coach Matt LaFleur has said he wants to bring more balance to Green Bay's offense. That should mean more opportunities for Jones to not only put up bigger numbers but to set him up for his next payday.
Dean Lowry, DE
Lowry was taken just six picks after Blake Martinez so he too is entering the final year of his contract (set to make $2 million) and doesn't have a fifth-year option. While Lowry has not had as much of an impact as Martinez, the 25-year-old has been able to increase his production each season.
Over the past two seasons, Lowry has been credited with 76 tackles, five sacks, two fumble recovers, a forced fumble, and five pass deflections. He's missed just one game in his three seasons and has made 19 starts. Martinez may be more of a priority for the Packers but keeping him and Lowry around can give the team two young building blocks on defense.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.