Jones might prove difficult to replace

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- James Jones may have been one of the most underappreciated Green Bay Packers of the last seven years.

Almost always overshadowed by Donald Driver and Greg Jennings early in his career and Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson late in his career, all Jones did was produce consistent results. Although he never recorded a 1,000-yard season, his career averages were solid.

Over his seven-year career -- all with the Packers until Monday, when Jones signed a three-year free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders -- Jones averaged 44 catches, 615 yards and five touchdowns per season. His first foray into free agency came at an unfortunate time, following the NFL lockout of 2011 and coming of a stretch in which he dropped 18 passes (according to ProFootballFocus.com) over a two-year period.

A soft market then allowed the Packers to retain him at a relatively low cost of $9.6 million over three seasons.

In those three seasons, Jones ranked tied for ninth among all NFL receivers with 24 touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In that same stretch, he ranked 32nd among all receivers in receptions (161) and 31st in yards (2,236).

That kind of production isn't easily replaced by a No. 3 receiver.

Jones, a third-round pick in 2007, showed himself to be a dependable receiver who often played through injuries. He missed six games in 2008 and two games last season because of knee injuries, but in his other five seasons he appeared in every game.

The Packers like what they have in third-year pro Jarrett Boykin, who emerged early last season after injuries to Cobb and Jones. In the final 12 weeks of the season, Boykin caught 46 passes (which ranked tied for 26th among receivers during that stretch) for 681 yards and three touchdowns.

They also have another young receiver, Myles White, who got his first taste of game action last season plus Chris Harper (a waiver claim last season) and Kevin Dorsey (a seventh-round pick last year).

With Cobb and Nelson likely to receive sizeable contract extensions before they hit free agency next offseason, the Packers decided not to spend the money to bring back Jones.