AJ Dillon's contract reveals he might not be in Packers' plans after all

Green Bay Packers, AJ Dillon
Green Bay Packers, AJ Dillon / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Various reports indicated that the Green Bay Packers would move on from running back AJ Dillon this offseason, making it more surprising when they handed him a new contract.

After the first wave of free agency, Dillon is No. 2 on the depth chart behind new signing Josh Jacobs. With second-year Emanuel Wilson the likely third-string running back, are the Packers set? Does bringing back Dillon rule out the possibility of drafting another running back?

Not at all—the opposite, in fact.

Initially, it seemed like Dillon's return solved Green Bay's need at running back. However, the Packers found a creative way to re-sign Dillon, using a rare fourth-year qualifying offer. Let's break down why that's significant.

Packers could move on from AJ Dillon this summer

The Packers took zero risk by re-signing Dillon. According to Spotrac, he has a cap hit of only $1.29 million in 2024, which is lower than the upcoming first-round pick. Green Bay could release Dillon over the summer without worrying about the impact on the salary cap. Per Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, they would only pay $167,000 in dead cap.

In other words, the Packers can let Dillon compete for the No. 2 job at training camp, but if they draft a running back who outperforms him over the summer, they can move on.

It's a win-win for the Packers. If they don't draft a running back, they've got Dillon to provide backup for Jacobs. But they don't have to keep him.

Another possibility is for Green Bay to draft a running back and keep Dillon as the No. 3 option. But what if Wilson outperforms him throughout training camp? Matthew Berry of NBC Sports said the Packers "like" Wilson, which could indicate they expect him to play more snaps in 2024. Or what happens if the Packers draft two running backs?

The Packers offered Dillon a team-friendly contract. He easily could've declined the offer and signed elsewhere, and they were OK with that. It shows where they believed his market was. If the team strengthens the backfield in the upcoming draft, there's no guarantee Dillon will make the 53-man roster in 2024.

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