Updates from Thursday, March 20
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel provides financial insight surrounding James Starks' new contract with the Packers:
#Packers made commitment to James Starks as Eddie Lacy's backup. His 2-year, $3.166M deal has $725,000 in guaranteed money. '14 cap: $1.37M.— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) March 20, 2014
While Eddie Lacy got much of the attention for the Green Bay Packers' success in the running game during the 2013 season, James Starks was also a productive member during their run to the playoffs. Starks has agreed to stay with the Packers, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:
RB James Starks has cancelled his visit with the Steelers and has agreed to terms with the Packers on a new contract, staying in Green Bay— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 18, 2014
The 28-year-old running back was a big factor on the field for the Packers throughout his four seasons with a limited amount of snaps and carries. While several players were locked up through the early parts of free agency for Green Bay, Starks was not re-signed right away.
Despite sitting on the bench for much of the season behind Lacy, the 6'2", 218-pound running back saw just 89 carries but went off for 493 yards with a 5.5 yards-per-carry average and three touchdowns. In his final game of the regular season, Starks toted the ball 11 times for 88 yards to help get the Packers to the playoffs.
With all of that success, Starks still knew he was unlikely to re-sign with the Packers with Lacy and Johnathan Franklin being much younger and equally as talented. Starks knew he probably wouldn't be in a Packers uniform in 2014, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"I'll leave that to my agent," Starks said. "That's out of my control."
His productivity was enough to be named the top running back with less than 99 carries in 2013 by Football Outsiders (via Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports):
Pro Football Focus also gave Starks plenty of praise and showed just how great he is at compiling yards after contact:
Eddie Lacy got all the ink, but on just 224 snaps James Starks earned a +5.6 grade for GB pic.twitter.com/eArKyeWTa6— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 14, 2014
While Starks likely won't be taking a ton of snaps away from Lacy and Franklin, his ability to gain chunk yardage for Green Bay is why this deal makes the most sense. With a 6'2" back pounding his way through the line, that only opens up more opportunities for everyone else around him.
Was this a good signing by the Green Bay Packers?
Unlike some of the other free-agent running backs who went on the market like Ben Tate or Maurice Jones-Drew, Starks wasn't expected to take over a starting spot for any team. Now the 28-year-old can continue a limited yet productive career in the NFL.
His ability to shed tacklers and get downfield in place of the lead back also makes him valuable to Green Bay. If Starks can put up similar numbers to the ones he posted with the Packers in 2013, the team is getting a back that has a chance to be a difference-maker off the bench once again.
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