Packers Rumors: RB Jamaal Charles to Green Bay?

The rumor machine has tried to fill the Packers’ need for a running back with just about every available free agent on the market; Adrian Peterson, Latavius Murray, and Eddie Lacy have all gotten attention lately, but now it seems to be time for Jamaal Charles to get his turn in the rumor mill.

Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network on Tuesday that the Packers are considered a potential landing spot for Charles. Whether there’s legitimate interest or not isn’t clear, but at least in theory, Charles has a skill set that could work well for the Packers.

Or at least, it would have a few years ago.

Injuries cloud the Jamaal Charles picture

Injury concerns are always a factor for running backs over the age of 30. The nature of the position produces banged up former stars at an alarming rate, and Charles fits that description perfectly.

Due to injuries, Charles has played just 290 snaps over the last two seasons, including just 27 in 2016. At 5-11 and 188 pounds, Charles is built more like a defensive back, and the pounding of more than 1,300 career carries has clearly taken its toll: Charles hasn’t played all 16 games in a season since 2012.

The nature of Charles’ injuries is also concerning. Charles has torn an ACL twice, and returned last season before he was fully recovered from his most recent tear, precipitating another surgery. Charles has also suffered two high ankle sprains.

Charles’ elite speed still intrigues

But if Charles can be even 85% of what he once was, he’s still worth a look for a couple reasons.

The first is pure speed. Though he has surely slowed down some, Charles was a world class sprinter at his peak. That’s not an exaggeration: his personal best time of 10.13 seconds in the 100 meter dash would have put him just outside the final heat at last year’s Olympic games. He also posted a blistering 4.38 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Combine.

Charles translated that incredible speed to the football field in a way no one has ever duplicated. His career 5.5 yards per carry average is the best in NFL history, and over a 31-game span from 2009 to 2010, he averaged a mind-boggling 6.1 yards per carry.

More than just speed

Charles brings more than just pure speed to an offense. At his best, he’s also incredibly versatile. He’s accumulated more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage twice in his career, and he’s had 40 or more receptions in a season four times, including 70 catches in 2013.

He has also been a relatively competent pass protector. Though he’s been used in that capacity less as he’s aged, from 2008 through 2010 he was one of the 15 best pass protecting backs in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Another big plus for Charles is that he runs well from a variety of positions. Most importantly, he runs well out of shotgun formations, averaging 5.5 yards per carry from that alignment.

Does it make sense for the Packers?

We’ve detailed extensively what the Packers expect from their running backs: running from shotgun, catching passes, and protecting Aaron Rodgers. Charles would seem to tick all three boxes, but his injury concerns are extensive.

If the Packers can get him for cheap, it may be worth a flier, but Charles should not be counted on as an every down (or even every game) back at this point in his career. He’s a complimentary piece, and if he’s affordable, he could be a very good one.