Packers' alternative to signing Josh Jacobs would've been a disaster

Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs / Jeff Bottari/GettyImages

The Green Bay Packers made one of the surprises of free agency by signing Josh Jacobs to replace Aaron Jones.

The former first-round pick has been to two Pro Bowls and earned first-team All-Pro honors after leading the NFL in rushing in 2022. If he can recapture that form this season, the Packers will have signed one of the league's best running backs.

Green Bay was among several teams reportedly interested in signing Jacobs. What would general manager Brian Gutekunst have done if Jacobs had chosen another team? What other plans did the Packers have?

It turns out former Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was a potential target.

Austin Ekeler says Packers were interested in signing him

Ekeler was a guest on the God Bless Football podcast, and he revealed the Packers were one of the teams interested in signing him in free agency.

"There was like six that were generally interested on the first day," said Ekeler. "Some threw out a number, some were like, 'Yes, we want to talk, but we're going after this person first,'" said Ekeler.

Ekeler later added that the Packers were one of the teams interested before he signed a deal with the Washington Commanders.

They may fall into the latter category of one of the teams who were interested but had other targets in mind. Green Bay signed Jacobs on the first day of free agency while Ekeler was available, indicating he was Brian Gutekunst's top choice.

But if Jacobs had signed elsewhere, Ekeler could've ended up in Green Bay.

Ekeler was one of the league's most talented and versatile running backs at his best. Between 2021 and 2022, he rushed for 1,826 yards and 25 touchdowns while catching 177 passes for 1,369 yards and 13 touchdowns.

However, his numbers declined dramatically in 2023, with Ekeler finishing with 628 yards and five touchdowns at a career-low 3.5 yards per carry.

"Ekeler had lost a step and was not as dynamic of a player as he was in the past. Part of that could have been the ankle, sure, but history says that the arrow is pointing directly down for Ekeler," wrote Bolt Beat's Jason Reed.

Ekeler is entering his eighth season in the NFL and turns 29 in May. Signing him, even to an affordable deal, would've been a significant risk for the Packers.

Gutekunst made the right choice to go with Jacobs, but if the former All-Pro had signed elsewhere, the Packers might have struggled to replace Aaron Jones.

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