Thanks to the implications of Hurricane Sandy, the Green Bay Packers and the rest of the NFL have two extra days to make a deal before the league-imposed deadline.
The NFL pushed the deadline back to Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, mostly because league operations have all but shut down on the Eastern seaboard. The original deadline would have been Tuesday.
But even with two extra days, don’t expect the Packers to make a move for reportedly available running backs Steven Jackson or DeAngelo Williams.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that both the St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers were fielding calls for their veteran backs before the deadline. The Packers, struggling to run the football without Cedric Benson (Lisfranc injury, new IR), were tied to speculation on both players. The two also reported that Packers GM Ted Thompson is a long-time admirer of Jackson, and had several times in the past attempted to deal for Jackson with “significant” trade packages.
However, Both Jackson and Williams have big obstacles that make it unlikely that Packers Thompson would pull the trigger on a move now.
We’ll start with Jackson.
Remember back just two years. The Packers, void of Ryan Grant because of a season-ending ankle injury, joined the bidding for then Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch. Thompson stayed strong on not overpaying for Lynch, and the Seattle Seahawks eventually made the right offer to get the running back headed west.
Why would he put together a similar package for Jackson, a less talented, older and more worn down version of Lynch? And at an equal price?
Keep in mind: Lynch was 24 years old and had less than 750 career carries when Thompson showed interest in 2010. Jackson is 29, in his ninth season and the recipient of over 2,200 carries on his NFL body. He’s no longer getting a full workload in St. Louis because of nagging injuries over the last couple of season. The fact is that Jackson is an aging, regressing asset that will likely end up costing something near what Lynch did in 2010.
He’s also owed what’s left of $3 million in guaranteed money in 2012.
And as an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Packers would essentially be spending draft picks on a rental running back. That combination certainly doesn’t sound like one Thompson would be interested in.
What about Williams?
His contract is the big hurdle.
Just two years into a five-year, $43 million deal, Williams is owed $17.25 million over the final three years of his (ridiculous) deal. He’d also cost $2.6 million in guaranteed money on the 2012 cap. The Packers attempting to fit those numbers into their cap over the next several years would put Thompson into an even bigger money pinch with more important contracts due for renewal.
More than likely, the Packers would have to either re-structure his deal completely or cut Williams outright before the 2013 season. It’s the situation Carolina is facing right now, which is why Williams is even available for trade in the first place.
Williams is no spring chicken, either. At 29 years old, Williams is also reaching the twilight of productive running back years. In seven seasons, he has over 1,000 career carries and a season-ending foot injury back in 2010 on his record.
Like the rest of the Packers backfield—which has no back averaging over 4.0 yards per carry—the production has been sparse for Williams in 2012.
In Carolina this season, Williams has averaged just 30.0 yards a game and 3.4 yards a carry. There’s no guarantee that either he or Jackson would immediately solve what ails the Packers run game.
The argument for a deal continues to crumble when adding in the fact that just about everyone from Mike McCarthy to Aaron Rodgers has said that Benson is expected back sometime this season. Hastily dealing for an expensive back to bridge that gap between now and then just doesn’t fit how this front office works.
Remember, Benson was a zero-risk, zero compensation-needed investment. He cost dimes and nickels and there was no team that needed draft picks in return. Comparing Thompson’s signing of Benson then to a deal for Jackson or Williams now is foolish. They are two different situations.
Besides, the Packers issues in running the football go much deeper than just the player receiving the handoffs. If there was just one problem, the Packers would have already fixed it. Across the board, the Packers need improvement.
Thursday at 4 p.m. will pass, Williams will stay in Carolina, Jackson in St. Louis. The Packers will continue pushing forward with Alex Green and James Starks while Benson’s foot heals.
It’s not the perfect situation—nothing about the Packers’ run game is right now—but a panicked, high-risk move for Jackson and Williams just doesn’t appear very likely.