As the most talented Aaron Nagler wrote, the free-agent market for running backs has been incredibly slow. With so much silence surrounding the position, it is likely that the Packers will have the opportunity to bring back Ryan Grant for a decent wage.
Grant made it known that he wishes to be back with the Packers next season by telling ESPN 540 (h/t Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com) that there was a "good chance" he would be back and the Packers were his "ideal situation."
A short-term deal would be good for both the Packers and Grant.
At the start of the 2011 season, I was ready to send Grant to the bench and let James Starks build on the momentum of his playoff success. I didn't think Grant would be able to return to full health and contribute. I was wrong.
The Packers rushing numbers from 2011 don't scream of success, as the team finished 27th overall in rushing yards with 1558 yards and 28th in yards per carry with 3.9 yards.
Grant was far from spectacular, but did what the Packers needed throughout the season, playing roughly one-third of the snaps and splitting time with James Starks. Grant averaged 4.2 yards per carry, just under the 4.4 YPC-mark he had in 2009, the best year of his career.
In addition to his rushing totals, Grant contributed in the passing game, catching 19 passes for 268 yards. His 14.1 average yards per catch were helped in large part by the 80-yarder he caught against the Detroit Lions. In the Packers' pass-happy offense, Grant's improvements in pass-blocking were also a big factor.
By bringing Grant back, the Packers would keep stability and add another option at a position which features so many injuries. In the last two years, the Packers have lost Grant to a season-ending ankle injury, Alex Green to a season-ending knee injury and Starks to hamstring and ankle injuries.
With a short-term contract, the Packers wouldn't have to commit too much money to an aging player, and allow their young running backs to continue learning the offense and wait for their opportunity.
Starks appeared to have the inside track on becoming the full-time starter at the beginning of the season, but fizzled out due to injuries. Despite his success during the Packers' playoff run, Starks' struggles with injuries bring about questions about his durability and health going forward.
Starks missed most of his rookie year with a hamstring injury, and then the ankles cost him playing time in 2011. With Starks' future as the starter somewhat in question, the Packers should definitely bring Grant back instead of letting him walk and relying on Starks and two second-year players with little experience in Alex Green and Brandon Saine.
If the price is right, this is a deal that just makes sense for both Grant and the Packers. If there is in fact interest from other teams, the Packers should be fine letting Grant walk. They should be able to survive without Grant, but it would make things more difficult and risky going into the season.
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