Top Free-Agent Running Back Candidates for Green Bay Packers

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIMarch 22, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 13:  Justin Fargas #25 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during their game against the Washington Redskins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 13, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

At the three more pressing positions of need for the Green Bay Packersoffensive tackle , outside linebacker , and cornerback —there is a need for younger players. Aging players who are breaking down hold those positions, and an upgrade is required soon if not now.

This is not the case at running back. Ryan Grant is signed for a couple more years and making enough that the team is not looking to replace him. His production over the past 41 regular season games is right at the top of the league.

Brandon Jackson is Grant's backup, but his production plummeted from 433 yards on 75 touches in 2008-09 to 298 yards on 58 touches last season, and his rushing average dropped from 5.5 yards per carry to 3.0. He struggled to find holes and found the end zone only in a rout of Seattle.

It appears he cannot be counted on to carry the load if Grant goes down. Jackson's best role is as a third-down back, since he is capable of picking up a blitz, a good receiver and at least a threat to run.

If Green Bay can get a back better than Jackson in the draft without using a first-round pick that should go to a position of dire need, great. But the player would be drafted at around the same position that Jackson was, so such a find is not reliable.

Moreover, because the team has more pressing needs where youth is needed, those picks might best be used to bolster the three positions in question.

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That means the best place to find a capable backup may be the free agent market.

The free agents left fall into three categories: never, maybe, and not worth mentioning.

The Packers let DeShawn Wynn and Ahman Green go, and there are a plethora of backs like them that GM Ted Thompson could pick up. They are a dime a dozen, and not likely to provide a better option than Jackson should Grant be hurt. Hence, I will not spend time picking one over another.

Given the contract handed out to backs who are wearing down such as Thomas Jones and LaDanian Tomlinson, many of the backs simply will not be explored by Thompson. Others may not want to sign because they still see themselves as starters and do not want to back up Grant.

This list includes Ronnie Brown, Jamal Lewis, Willie Parker, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Brian Westbrook, Leon Washington, LenDale White, and Cadillac Williams. Forget them, Packers fans, they are not going to be wearing green and gold!

That leaves us with the rest of the pack.

There also are a number of other backs who might command more than a team already dedicating $5 million to its star back would be willing to spend. But the longer these backs are out there in free agency, the lower their price goes.

The best of this list includes Mike Bell, Justin Fargas, and Jerious Norwood. If the Packers can get any of these backs for a reasonable price, they should go for them. These are the players to look at in more detail over at PackerChatters .