Why the Green Bay Packers Should Trade Ryan Grant
With the news of Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant restructuring his contract to fully guarantee his base salary this year, it is extremely unlikely the Packers would cut Grant as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggested may happen.
Trading Grant at this point has some definite advantages, but also leaves some concerns for the defending Super Bowl champs.
This article provides some of the reasons why trading could be the right move for the Packers as they look to complete the nearly impossible act of repeating.
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The Packers seem to have found their running back of the future in James Starks. He erupted onto the scene after spending the first half of the 2010 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list with an injury. He came on strong at the end of last season when the Packers needed him most.
In his debut against the 49ers, Starks rushed for 73 yards on 18 carries, but provided a spark that the Packers offense had not seen since Grant was injured in the second quarter of the Packers season opener.
Starks saw inconsistent playing time until he got another opportunity in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles. He exploded for 123 yards on 23 carries which was the most yardage gained by a Packers running back all season long. Starks played consistently throughout the playoffs, helping the Packers win Super Bowl XLV.
An early ankle injury in the first preseason game this year has harmed Starks in the battle for the starting job. Starks runs with power that Ryan Grant just doesn't have. He is a physical back who falls forward for extra yardage.
Grant has not shown the same burst that he frequently flashed in years past. This could lead to Starks earning the starting job. If Grant is not going to be the starter, he is quite expensive for a backup running back.
Injury and Age
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In the current state of the NFL, running backs have some of the shortest careers in the league. Once backs hit 30, it's usually a quick downfall with decrease speed, power and elusiveness. Ryan Grant will turn 29 during the season. He hasn't hit the magical wall of 30, but he is getting up there in years for running backs.
Grant is also coming off a nasty ankle that placed him on injured reserve causing him to miss the remaining 15 games and the playoffs. Grant has vowed that his injury was not as bad as advertised and that he could have come back if the rules for injured reserve were not in place.
For a younger back, Grant's injury may not be the biggest deal, but it certainly has brought up the question whether or not Grant will get back to form. In training camp he has looked average, but has not had the same explosiveness that he possessed before last season.
If history is any indicator, Grant could be in the beginning stages of a gradual decline that many players his age have faced. With a talented young back nipping at his heels, Grant could be dealt to avoid the Packers having to worry about this potential outcome.
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If Grant were traded, the Packers would have three young backs with bright futures. Behind Starks would be Dimitri Nance and rookie Alex Green. If not, Nance will most likely be cut and picked up by another team hungry for a third running back.
Nance's performance thus far in preseason was the reason the talk of Grant not being on the roster to start the year began. He has looked much improved from last season showing patience in finding holes and in pass protection. With a strong performance against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, Nance should have some interest if cut.
Alex Green has looked impressive for a rookie and adds a different aspect than other backs on the team with his physicality. He will need more time to become a better player, but he has shown that he definitely has potential to do so if given the opportunity.
With Grant on the roster, Nance will most likely be cut and Green won't see much of the field. If they were to trade Grant, the young guys would get some action and gain extremely beneficial experience.
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In the preseason, the Packers No. 1 offense has looked its best when they implemented the no-huddle offense. The pass-heavy Packers offense has performed on a different level with increased tempo and focus. In these situations, James Starks looks much more suited for it than Ryan Grant.
Grant has always struggled as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield while Starks excels in this department. Against the Indianapolis Colts, Starks split out wide and appeared a legitimate threat as a receiver. Although is doesn't mean much, Starks did have a pretty one-handed snag against the Colts.
If the Packers decide to use the no-huddle heavily in the season, it makes sense that Starks would see most of the time on the field during these times. Starks needs to improve his pass protection for this to become reality, but he seems close to figuring it out.
Watching Starks in the open field is a sight to behold as he uses his rare mix of speed and power to elude defenders before bulldozing others. With how much the Packers pass the ball, Starks will provide an extra possibility for creating mismatches.
Depth on Defensive Line
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With the issues of depth on the defensive line, the Packers should listen to offers for Grant in order to strengthen up a line that could be a weakness. The injury to Mike Neal revealed the Packers could be in big trouble in any of the front three goes down especially in either of the end positions.
Behind B.J. Raji, Neal and Pickett, the Packers have Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Lawrence Guy, Eli Joseph and Chris Donaldson. The last two are not expected to make the team and Guy has been suffering from reoccurring concussion symptoms. Green will play backup to B.J. Raji in the center of the defense. On the ends, Wilson and Wynn have been inconsistent thus far in camp.
Grant would be valuable to many teams and if they have a quality defense lineman to move, a trade would make sense for both teams. If not, the Packers will be forced to stick with the guys in camp or play the waiver wire and attempt to sign a player that cut at the deadline.
A trade could provide a solution to a potential problem that the Packers could face.
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With every personnel move in the NFL, there are always concerns that remain. The Packers would be left with three running backs all in their first or second years in the league. This would leave the Packers awfully inexperienced at the position.
Starks is still a wild card. He has shown flashes that he has what it takes to be a great back in the league along with proving he can help the team win, but it is unknown whether he can do this consistently over the course of the commanding NFL season.
In the last couple of years, Starks has also dealt with multiple injuries and has not yet proved that he can stay healthy during the season as well. If Starks were to go down, the Packers would be in the same troubling position they found themselves in last season when Grant went down.
The move would also remove a veteran leader from the group of backs. The only experienced player in the backfield would be fullback John Kuhn. In his sixth season, Kuhn is a two-time Super Bowl winner playing for the Packers last season and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.