Word on the street over the weekend was that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson was putting together possible offers for St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson. St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher was quick to quash the rumors of any trade involving Jackson, saying, “He’s our running back and we’re not calling around, nor are we getting calls for that matter.”
Thompson is known for his consistent preference for developing young players as opposed to bringing in free agent veterans, but is willing to make exceptions if he truly believes the team needs it, as in his addition of Cedric Benson this year. Though Steven Jackson no longer appears to be an option, should the Packers still be looking to trade for a running back?
Another name that’s been thrown out in connection to the Packers is the Carolina Panthers’ running back DeAngelo Williams. The Packers could certainly use help in the backfield, especially with cold weather coming, but I’m highly skeptical that Thompson will make any trade before Thursday’s deadline. The Packers faced a similar situation two seasons ago when their starting running back went on injured reserve. At the time, Marshawn Lynch was on the trading block, but ended up going to the Seattle Seahawks because Thompson was unwilling to give as high a draft pick as the Buffalo Bills wanted for Lynch.
As in 2009, the Packers starting running back is on injured reserve, but Cedric Benson has a chance to return to the team in Week 14 (at the earliest), thanks to the new injured reserve rule put into place this offseason. The Packers’ unwillingness to make a move two years ago when they were in a more dire situation makes me doubt that Thompson would be willing to part with a draft pick, as well as dealing with the salary-cap issues that would come with a DeAngelo Williams or a Steven Jackson.
Alex Green hasn’t been great this year and James Starks (who broke onto the scene in 2009 to rescue the Packers’ run game) hasn’t even earned his coaches’ confidence enough to get more than a handful of snaps this season after struggling with injuries. The Packers running game is obviously a problem, yet I think the Packers are wise not to pull the trigger on a trade at this position for a couple of reasons. Number one, you never want to hear the term “aging running back” in connection with your team. We’ve all seen how quickly a running back can drop off. Is surrendering a draft pick worth taking the chance that the player doesn’t pan out? Especially at the running back position? Number two, the Packers’ draft picks, because the team so rarely uses free agency to acquire players, are more valuable than they are to most teams. I would prefer to see the Packers hold on to their draft picks and stick with the draft-and-develop formula that has worked so well for them in the past.
Though it’s a dangerous strategy, I don’t particularly think the Packers need a strong running game. I think the Packers can be the offensive powerhouse they were last season, and get by with a sub-par running game. The Packers don’t need much of a running game – just enough to keep the defense honest and to be able to control the clock when needed. They need Green, Starks, or versatile wideout/heartthrob Randall Cobb to make a few plays a game in the backfield. I’ll be happy if the Packers sit tight through the trade deadline. Hopefully, Week 14 will bring a healthy Benson back to step in for the final push to the playoffs.