What James Starks' Release Means for the Packers

With James Starks officially out of the picture in Green Bay, the running back position suddenly is a lot more interesting. Let’s take a quick look at what it could mean moving forward.

Ty Montgomery is the man now

If there was any doubt as to how serious the Packers are about Ty Montgomery as an official running back, there shouldn’t be any more. Montgomery is now the only remaining running back on the Packers’ roster, and his role in the Packers’ offensive backfield just grew substantially.

Montgomery offers an entirely different skill set from Starks and had clearly taken over the primary running back responsibilities by the end of the season, even with more experienced backs on the roster. However, he still has his limits as a player and losing the security blanket of Starks (however minimal that security might have been) puts more pressure on Montgomery.

Pressure though there may be, prioritizing Montgomery’s unique skills is a huge benefit for the Packers. His ability to line up anywhere on the field stresses defenses in ways that Starks never could. If he can improve his pass blocking, Montgomery may never have to come off the field.

Also, Montgomery wants to switch to a “real” running back number, and 44 just opened up. 44 is half of 88. Too perfect? We’ll see.

Eddie Lacy may have a second shot in Green Bay

I’m not sure what Eddie Lacy will bring on the open market, but I seriously doubt that it will be top dollar. He doesn’t stay healthy enough (or, for what it’s worth, in shape enough) for teams to be able to consider him a lead back.

However, if he can be had at the right price, the Packers may now be more willing to bring him back. Lacy can still run: even with added weight, he was producing essentially the same numbers over his past 16 games as he was during his best season in 2014. He’s also much better in pass protection than Montgomery, an added bonus considering the Packers’ offensive style.

It’s possible that Lacy could provide the same kind of veteran depth behind Montgomery that Starks did for Lacy in 2013. If Lacy’s price tag is comparable to what Starks would have made this year, it’s easy to see him coming back.

Christine Michael, a rookie, or somebody else?

NFL teams don’t value running backs the way they used to, and the Packers value them even less. Green Bay entered 2016 with only two “real” running backs on the roster, Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Jhurell Pressley didn’t stick around long enough to really count, and until Lacy broke down, the Packers were content to give spot snaps to Montgomery and Randall Cobb to fill in the gaps a third string running back normally would.

But the Lacy to Starks to Montgomery transition was anything but smooth, and the Packers certainly want to insulate themselves against anything like that in the future. With that in mind, they’ll probably want to carry three running backs going forward, so who’s it going to be?

Christine Michael is an obvious choice, but he was anything but consistent for the Packers and hasn’t shown an ability to consistently get upfield for any of the three NFL teams he’s played for. 

Would the Packers draft a running back? It’s possible, but don’t forget well regarded undrafted rookies Don Jackson and John Crockett are still hanging around. Both finished the season on injured reserve and could get another shot in Green Bay. In the event that the Packers draft a running back, it probably won’t be high, and they may decide that giving someone who’s already been on the roster one last look could be a better investment.

The possibility remains that the Packers could sign an outside free agent to bolster their backfield, although that seems entirely unlikely. Adrian Peterson will probably be available, but the probability of Peterson coming to Green Bay is so remote it doesn’t really merit serious discussion.