GREEN BAY – The only person happier than wide receiver James Jones about his new three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers is likely his quarterback.
Five days after Aaron Rodgers publicly implored general manager Ted Thompson to re-sign the unrestricted free agent and not long after Rodgers and veteran wide receiver Donald Driver went to management to make a more private plea for Jones, the Packers agreed to terms with Jones on a three-year deal. Terms of the deal were not immediately available.
“The process has been crazy. Hearing from all these teams and things like that, wondering what was going to happen, but I’m glad it’s over, glad I’m back with the Packers,” Jones said when reached in California, shortly after the news broke. “Everything fits well together. I know the playbook, I can start working on winning a championship. I’m excited to get back with the guys.
Jones said he knew both Rodgers and Driver went to management to push for his return, and that fellow wideout Greg Jennings also went to bat for him.
"That means a lot,” Jones said. "Having your teammates push for you and want you back, not a lot of guys would do that, two high profile guys like them two dudes. And for Greg and Donald want me back on that team, that shows how unselfish we are."
On Tuesday, Rodgers told Steve “The Homer” True and Mitch “Thunder” Nelles in an interview on ESPNMilwaukee and ESPNMadison that the Packers needed to re-sign Jones.
“James is extremely talented and he's a guy that I think we have to bring back without a doubt," Rodgers said. "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."
Then, during his first media availability of training camp at his locker Sunday, he reiterated his stance, saying “He’s an important part of this team. He plays a big role for us. We need to add him back. We need to add John Kuhn back. Those are two guys out there right now who are important to us. It’s not my decision, but I’m definitely pulling for those guys to bring ’em back.”
In between those two public pleas, Rodgers went upstairs and made a more private one, and while it’s hard to imagine general manager Ted Thompson making a move on his quarterback’s say-so, it apparently helped.
In 65 career games and 18 starts (including playoffs), Jones has caught 166 passes for 2,305 yards and 16 touchdowns. Last season was his most productive, with 50 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns in 16 regular-season games and 11 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ four postseason games, including Super Bowl XLV.
But he also dropped what may have been four long touchdowns during the season: a potential 72-yard touchdown in the Packers’ 9-0 win over the New York Jets on Oct. 31; a possible 29-yard touchdown in the Packers’ 45-17 victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 26; a likely 63-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers the Packers’ 21-16 NFC Wild Card victory at Philadelphia; and a potential 75-yard touchdown in the Packers’ victory over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.
Asked about those dropped passes and the expectations that will come with his extension, Jones replied, “Every year I try to raise my level of expectation, and that’s not going to change. I expect to be an impact player. Those plays I let go last year will definitely get made this year. You have to make the most of your chances. I don’t blame the fans, I don’t blame the media for getting on me. Those are touchdowns, so it’s well-deserved. But I’m harder on me than anyone else is.”
On Wednesday, an NFL source said Jones was close to a deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Then, there were reports that the New York Jets were interested. Jones said he spoke to his agent, Frank Bauer, only twice this week: Once when the Vikings showed interest, and once when Bauer called to tell him the deal with the Packers was done. Jones said he didn’t even know how much his deal was worth.
“I don’t know how those talks (with the Vikings) went. Obviously they didn’t go too well,” said Jones, who watched the Vikings sign Michael Jenkins instead and the Jets add Plaxico Burress. “I just left it all in my agent’s hands. I told him I wanted to be back with the Packers, and he made that happen. I’m just glad to be back and go.”
Jones, 27, said he decided to sign a three-year deal – just like Jennings did before last season – so it will also give him another bite at the free-agency apple. With Driver, 36, in the twilight of his career and fellow receiver Jordy Nelson entering the final year of his deal, Jones expects to take on a more prominent role in the offense, even though under coach Mike McCarthy there should be enough balls to go around.
“That’s the plan. Eventually I’m going to be a starter,” Jones said. “We wanted a three-year deal so we could get back to the market sooner. But hopefully I don’t get there. Hopefully I do well and I can getan extension (from the Packers). But I’m not worried about that right now. I’m just glad I’m back.
“You know, it’s been crazy. If I didn’t have to go through it, that would’ve been good. But everything happens for a reason. I’m glad I went through it. I was nervous, excited, didn’t know what was going to happen. You get anxious and nervous. I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad I’m back.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.