Despite reported interest from both the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions over the last month, free agent running back Ryan Grant is more likely to end up back in St. Norbert this summer than any other NFL training camp.
The market that Grant thought would emerge simply hasn’t, and all things equal money-wise, the 29-year-old back would assumedly pick the Packers over starting new someplace else next season.
All the proof you need regarding Grant’s market has been told over the last 20 or so days.
While the Packers have been mostly quiet in their effort to bring Grant back, both the Patriots and Lions expressed legitimate interest.
New England hosted Grant as part of a trio of backs to visit the Patriots’ facility in late April. He joined Tim Hightower and Joseph Addai, but the Patriots never went any further in their interest and eventually signed Addai last week.
The Lions interest was even more concerning for Grant, who at one time was reported to have an offer on the table and an invitation to visit earlier this week. Grant never made the trip to Detroit, however, and his representation said that “economic” reasons kept Grant home. Reading between the lines, you could assume that the contract offer Grant received from Detroit was low enough that a trip East wasn’t necessary.
At this point, no other NFL team outside New England and Detroit has shown an interest in Grant.
It’s difficult looking across the NFL—especially after the draft—and finding many more logical fits. Maybe Miami or Oakland, who have front office histories with Grant, would give him a chance, but each team has a decent looking depth chart at running back currently.
Clearly, as the days continue to pass, the likelihood Grant is back in Green Bay increases. And as those same days pass, the chances of Grant getting anything more than a veteran’s minimum deal decreases.
In a sense, the Packers have played the situation perfectly.
GM Ted Thompson was always going to let the market play out for Grant, even if that meant losing him to a team willing to dole out the money. But now that Grant has a good taste of what his value on the open market really is, it should be that much easier for Thompson to convince Grant to come back to Green Bay on a zero risk deal.
Until Grant’s return is in stone, however, Thompson continues to play a game of chicken with his running back position.
Without Grant on the roster, the Packers’ running back have far more question marks than answers.
Third-year pro James Starks has shown flashes, but the time he’s spent on the sidelines nursing various injuries nearly equals the amount of games the Packers have played with him the last two seasons. 2011 third-round pick Alex Green has a skill set that screams perfection for the Packers’ pass-heavy offense, but a torn ACL in Week 7 last season casts a shadow of doubt whether he’ll have any kind of measurable impact in year two. And leaning on undrafted free agent Brandon Saine for any long stretch would be a calculated risk, even if the early returns to finish 2011 were positive.
Bringing back Grant, who actually showed late last season that there’s plenty left in the tank, would—at the very least—bring a sense of stability back to the position. Remember, Grant ran for 283 yards with a 5.8-yard average over the last four regular season games. This wasn’t a guy that was spinning his wheels like many backs nearing at the age of 30 often do as they start breaking down. Grant got better as the year wore on.
Why NFL teams have been so hesitant to look into Grant is a little puzzling, but there’s so many options in today’s NFL at the position that 29-year-olds can get lost in the shuffle.
There’s obviously still time for Grant—it’s only the middle of May—but the clock is ticking. The closer Grant gets to training camp, the more likely it is that he will be attending his fifth straight straight camp with the Packers (he wasn’t acquired from the Giants until September of 2007).
Considering how the free-agent market has treated Grant so far, it’s hard to say that scenario isn’t the most plausible.