Datone Jones Leaves Packers, Joins Rival Vikings

Four years ago, the Packers selected Datone Jones in the first round of the draft with the expectation he would stabilize Green Bay’s pass rush and boost the team’s “tough guy” factor.

Four years later, he’s off to a division rival.

2016 season recap verdict: Did not meet high expectations
Jones’ contract with Minnesota: 1 year, $3.5 million
Projected compensatory pick range: Fifth round to no compensatory pick
The Packers next play the Vikings: Twice in 2017 as part of NFC North play

The Minnesota Vikings continued their long tradition of scooping Packers players up in free agency with the signing of Datone Jones.

The Vikings have experienced an exodus of high-end players this offseason, including tight end Rhett Ellison, wide receiver Charles Johnson, tackle Matt Kalil, punter Jeff Locke, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and tackle Andre Smith.

How Datone Jones helps the Vikings

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer runs a different defensive scheme than the Packers. Where the Packers rely on linebackers to get to the quarterback in a 3-4, the Vikings rely on the defensive line in a 4-3.

Jones was asked to play the “elephant” position in the Packers defense along with Julius Peppers last season. This role put Jones with a hand on the ground on the defensive line or standing up as a linebacker. Now with the Vikings, Jones will likely exclusively play defensive line.

If possible, should the Packers have matched this contract?

Green Bay’s decision to not make much of an effort to re-sign Datone Jones is a puzzling one, based solely on precedent. For the past few years, the Packers have typically brought back high-end draft picks on defense that had underachieved (Mike Neal and Nick Perry) on a one- or two-year deal.

It’s unclear whether Jones left without entertaining an offer from the Packers or if the Packers weren’t interested in keeping the former first-round pick around in 2017. Either way, the Vikings signing of Jones is a low-risk, high-reward signing.

Does Jones leaving help or hurt the Packers?

In a vacuum, Jones’ departure is not a huge loss for the Packers. He was a disappointment in four seasons with the Packers. He totaled fewer than 10 sacks, after notoriously comparing himself to Reggie White immediately after the draft.

Given the departure of Julius Peppers to Carolina and now Jones, the Packers will need to find quality pass rushers either in the latter stages of free agency or the draft.