If it’s true Joe McKnight is, indeed, coming to Green Bay for a workout, it could be that James Starks’ career in Green Bay has finally run its course.
McKnight’s biggest asset is his versatility, something Starks doesn’t have.
Above all else, McKnight provides kick-return ability paralleled by few others. On 76 career attempts, McKnight has an average of 29.0 yards, which ranks third all-time in NFL history, and he’s also returned one kick for a touchdown in each of the past two seasons.
McKnight has gotten few opportunties as a featured back in the NFL, but he did average 6.0 yards per carry last season on 30 rushes, which he took for 179 yards.
In 2011, McKnight also blocked a punt that was returned by the Jets for a touchdown in a game against the Cowboys. He’s also been used as an emergency cornerback, once flirting with a move to defense full-time.
Add it all up, and that’s versatility Starks just doesn’t have. Since coming to Green Bay as a rookie in 2010, Starks has offered little other than as a running back.
It’s always been hoped that Starks would develop into the feature back the Packers have been seeking, especially after his playoff run in 2010 that helped Green Bay win the Super Bowl. But the reality is that Starks just hasn’t been able to stay healthy, playing in just 27 out of 54 possible games, including playoffs.
By signing McKnight and parting ways with Starks, the Packers would essentially be trading fourth-year players, which is not to be overlooked.
There’s a certain value in fourth-year players, who are one season away from reaching unrestricted free agency. Those players are frequently motivated to put together big seasons.
And even if the Packers don’t re-sign them, they can reap the potential benefit of draft choice compensation if such a player were to sign with another team in free agency.
Fourth round draft choice Johnathan Franklin has had a disappointing training camp in his rookie season, but the Packers aren’t likely to give up on him yet in favor of McKnight.
One could also argue that McKnight’s workout could also spell doom for wide receiver/return specialist Jeremy Ross, who’s been attempting to replace Randall Cobb on kick returns since last season.
Whether the Packers keep Ross simply as a receiver remains to be seen, but he’s being pushed by rookies Tyrone Walker, Charles Johnson and Myles White.
Nothing is etched in stone. The Packers have yet to put McKnight through a workout, let alone sign him. But gazing into the crystal ball, you can already see what the Packers potentially have in mind for the former New York Jet.