The 2023 NFL season is yet to be played, but that has not stopped anyone from making projections about what players will get in free agency after the upcoming season.
Attempting to tackle the declining and unwelcome free agent market for running backs was Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport, and things were not necessarily pretty for some of the names on this list.
One of those names? Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon.
Davenport noted concerns about Dillon's yard per carry dropping to 4.1 yards last season, a career-low, in addition to making a point about the possibility of becoming a lead back elsewhere by getting out of the shadow of Aaron Jones.
With that said, the projection for Dillon in free agency is not exactly the big win he may have expected just a few years ago.
Packers' AJ Dillon could be next running back to miss out in declining market
The projected contract for Dillon is $9.5 million over two years with $5 million guaranteed.
This is a far cry from what free agent running backs used to get upon hitting the open market. A major factor in this devaluation of this position has been teams going to the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to the negotiation process.
While it is understood that the effective lifespan of a running back is much shorter than what was thought not too long ago, those in positions of power have taken the data which has led to this conclusion and simply gone too far. This leads to a depressed free agent market for running backs and contracts for good players that often look like this.
On the bright side for the Packers, this type of projected deal for Dillon does provide an avenue for him to remain in Green Bay, a scenario he has previously stated his desire for.
In fact, Dillon remaining with the Packers is something that was mentioned as a possibility by Davenport, but in a way that would see them taking on quite a bit of dead money via releasing Aaron Jones. This is almost a non-starter as taking on a $12 million dead cap hit in 2024 is not a way that any team wants to operate.
Should Dillon return to Green Bay on a deal similar to the one that was projected, it would allow the Packers to pair short-term production with long-term flexibility moving forward. Keeping players that are familiar with Jordan Love in order to make him more comfortable should take some level of priority. If that includes spending a little bit more on a pair of running backs in the short-term, so be it.