If the Packers make any trades, it will almost certainly be for a running back. They are currently ranked 26th in rushing yards per game and 27th in yards per attempt.
Teams repeatedly dare Green Bay to run the ball by dropping many in coverage and leaving the box quite bare, but the Packers still can’t find an effective ground game.
It’s been especially bad the past two weeks, with Alex Green rushing the ball 42 times and only producing 89 yards combined.
The struggles of Green Bay’s running backs have led to speculation of Ted Thompson trading for either Steven Jackson or DeAngelo Williams.
Both are 29-year-old experienced running backs that have at one point been top performers in the league.
Would it be worth trading for either of them? Let’s take a look at each.
With Carolina’s bevy of running backs, the Panthers have openly admitted to listening to trade proposals for the Williams.
Up until this year, he’s been one of the premiere backs of the NFL. Through his first six years, he rushed for 5,047 yards and 38 touchdowns despite missing 16 games due to various injuries. And he accrued those totals on a sparkling 5.1 yards per attempt.
But this year, his production has significantly dropped. Through seven games, Williams has only rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 3.4 yards per attempt.
His contract isn’t too favorable, either. He signed a five-year $43 million contract in July 2011, which included $21 million guaranteed. That’s quite a hefty price for a running back on the downside of his career.
Like Williams, Jackson has seen better days. Before this season, he was consistently one of the league’s top running backs, rushing for at least 1,000 yards each year from 2005 to 2011 en route to three Pro Bowls.
This year, Jackson is on pace for 806 yards and only two touchdowns on a career-worst 3.7 yards per rush.
He’s had a couple nagging injuries here and there, but overall has been healthier than Williams—never missing more than four games in a season.
Another advantage Jackson has over Williams is pass-catching. Jackson has averaged 25.2 receiving yards over the course of his career, while Williams has averaged 12.5.
Jackson’s contract situation is also much more favorable than Williams’. If anyone trades for Jackson, that team will be responsible for paying the remaining $3,705,882 left on his 2012 salary. Jackson has an early termination option for next year, which he likely won’t exercise given that he’s due $7 million in 2013.
Overall, Jackson appears to be the much better option. While neither is still a top-tier running back, Jackson’s production is higher. He also is less injury prone, has a more favorable contract and would be a great weapon in the passing game for Aaron Rodgers.
Conventional wisdom says Thompson won’t trade for either. He usually loves stocking up on draft picks and doesn’t like to sacrifice them for a one or two-year rental.
But don’t be surprised if he ends up pulling the trigger. The Packers have been overall much more aggressive this year than normal.
Thompson traded up multiple times in the draft to grab better prospects, and Mike McCarthy has already ordered up a fake field goal, two fake punts and a surprise onside kick.
The usually conservative Packers are starting to take what they want.
Maybe they’ll take Jackson, too.