Cory's Corner: Packers must sign James Starks

 

 

Thirty years old is considered the Line of Demarcation for NFL running backs.

James Starks recently turned 30 and is an unrestricted free agent. So, you’d guess that the Packers should play the percentages and let him go.

Well, you’d be wrong.

When Eddie Lacy was struggling with an ever-increasing waistline, injury and assertiveness issues, it was Starks that kept the running game afloat. And that’s why the Packers must reward him with, and perhaps his last, contract. 

Starks has done everything the Packers have asked out of a running back — aside from coughing it up four times last year. He has gotten better as a pass catcher and his downhill running style was on full display when he rushed for 70 yards three times.

Sure Starks will be entering his seventh season. And it’s probably going to cost the Packers a two-year deal to keep the most underrated running back in the league around.

But if anyone can get to Lacy, it’s Starks. Lacy has said that he needs to lose about 30, and I know that teammates like Starks will be there with encouragement and strong words to keep Lacy on the straight and narrow. 

Starks has won a Super Bowl in his rookie season, but he remains hungry because he was hardly a factor. He injured his hamstring that season and his injuries have really added up.

But the Packers have to sign him. He can be the face of accountability for the entire squad of running backs. If the Packers need someone to catch a screen pass on third down, Starks can do it. If the Packers need him to stay back and block for Aaron Rodgers, he doesn’t balk and he goes out and does it.

Starks knows that he’s in the twilight of his career and is close to signing the third contract of his career. He’s going to want some security.

Starks is a perfect addition because of his generous mix of power and speed. In today’s NFL world, injured running backs turn into fossils. It’s hard for them to not only to overcome an injury — which is hard enough — but he has powered through many injuries.

Starks isn’t sexy, nor will many NFL teams be banging down his door. But the running game was one of two reasons (next to the offensive line) why the offense was derailed last year.

Rodgers still needs a semblance of a running game, because without one, he’s going to get abused. Starks led the Packers in the number of 20-plus yard games with four last season.

Starks could’ve complained. He could’ve pouted and turned into a locker room cancer when Lacy couldn’t get his engine out of idle.

But he didn’t. And it’s that reason that the Packers should bring him back.

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (34)

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Robb Carper's picture

March 01, 2016 at 06:35 am

This is silly. John Crockett is also a receiving running back out the back end. Its also amazing that after one down season, despite Eddie Lacy always having weight problems, we've decided to go red alert on this. Remember, that starting line was far from healthy. I think we let him go, I kinda think they should let Kuhn go too, but there must me something that Rip is still missing. It's time to focus on run stuffing and getting the monkey off our back that the Packers cannot defend the run.

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marpag1's picture

March 01, 2016 at 08:34 am

No, this is way, way, waaaaaaaay beyond silly. First, we've got the "fresh-out-of-my-backside" assumptions posited as facts ... e.g. "I know that teammates like Starks will be there with encouragement and strong words to keep Lacy on the straight and narrow" (even though they obviously didn't keep Lacy in line this past year). Or this: "He remains hungry because he was hardly a factor." I assume this information comes from personal interviews with James Starks. And the "hardly a factor" comment probably explains why we need to resign him so very, very badly.

And speaking of hardly a factor, I find it downright comical to read, "Starks led the Packers in the number of 20-plus yard games with four last season." Wait... what?? 20 yard games?? Isn't that something akin to saying, "Starks led the Packer running backs in taking the field?" Oh yeah... and the information is obviously incorrect. (Try 10, in the regular season). Or maybe the article was supposed to say 20+ yard RUNS. In that case, revise the number to 5, not 4.

Not that everything in the article is wrong or silly, though. He IS old, he IS injury prone, he DID have a fumbling problem, and he WAS "hardly a factor." So at least there's something we can agree on.

C'mon. This is just weak.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 02, 2016 at 01:16 am

"Starks has won a Super Bowl in his rookie season, but he remains hungry because he was hardly a factor." Not entirely correct.

Starks was not much of a factor in his rookie (2010) year during the regular season. However, in 4 postseason games, he averaged 20 carries and 79 yards/game, including 11 carries for 52 yards (a 4.7 yard average) in the super bowl. Aggregate stats were 81 carries for 315 yards and a 3.9 average in those 4 postseason games. Starks earned his SB ring.

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Packer_Pete's picture

March 01, 2016 at 06:36 am

Not if they either draft a RB in at least a middle round or (hold your breath) sign a FA. I'd love to see Forte in Green and Gold. Better than Starks in every imaginable way, especially catching the ball.
I think only sign Starks if neither happens, and if he is cheap. Otherwise there's no real good reason to hold on to a 30yr old who is not a game changer.

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slit's picture

March 01, 2016 at 06:42 am

Most underrated RB in the league...? There's a reason he didn't see the field more, despite his only competition being grossly overweight. He had ball security issues all year, which is the quickest way into McCarthy's doghouse. On top of that, he's a poor blocker & average runner of the football. His greatest skill is catching the ball, which to give credit, has improved over the last few years. It's time to draft & develop Lacy's replacement, or bring in Forte as a stop gap, who is simply a much better version of Starks.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:02 am

Time to draft and develop Lacy's replacement?
Wow that's a scary statement. Guess his career has already wound down. I think we should first see what he is like this coming season before we even think about that.

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slit's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:17 am

Who's saying his career is winding down? I'm referring to the fact that he's a free agent next year, and why in the world would you pay a guy who just wasted a whole year, because he values fried food over football. Impact RBs can be had every year in the draft, it's not a scary proposition at all. Lets hope he comes back next year and performs well, but any team that pays this guy significant money is foolish.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:29 am

Let's hope he rebounds big time. It is scary to think that after only 3 years we would be back to square one looking for a no 1 back. If he does not have enough motivation and pride after last year and with an ending contract, he never will. I just think he will have a great season and we can worry about it later.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 01, 2016 at 07:29 am

I like Starks. I would be fine if they brought him back. He does provide a nice change of pace speed to Lacy.

My only problem with Starks is he is very similar to Lacy in that he can't create his own holes or make people miss. He is a RB that can really only take what he is given.

I would like to see a more shifty type of RB and/or one with more pure speed to compliment Lacy. One that could maybe be more of a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.

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cuervo's picture

March 01, 2016 at 07:39 am

Bring him back on a minimum salary deal...sure. Good insurance in case of injury etc. in pre-season. It would be much better to draft a back, as my expectation is that Lacy will be gone after this year.....no way we should pay big money to keep him around. Good backs are a dime a dozen...no need to pay big money unless you truly have someone special...and that isn't Starks or Lacy.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:05 am

When he is healthy and in shape, I think Lacy is pretty special.

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dobber's picture

March 01, 2016 at 07:41 am

A good guy and a team player, but utterly replaceable. No reason to tie up money here. If there's a position where a rookie can have an impact, it's RB. Crockett and a draft pick to back up Lacy. Starks is not the future at RB for the Packers, and we don't really know if Lacy is anymore, either. That roster spot needs to be used to find the future of the RB position in GB.

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egbertsouse's picture

March 01, 2016 at 07:49 am

Hes' just a guy. TT can find players like him easily. No need to break the bank.

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lou's picture

March 01, 2016 at 09:03 am

Unless they sign Forte, Starks is back in Green Bay. He led the NFL RB's in yards after the catch, he catches the ball better and picks up the blitz better each year and in the open field he can make people miss. His only negative is he is loose with the football, that should be coachable. Unlike before Lacy arrived, if the #1 back goes down Kuhn can no longer be the short term guy but Starks has proven he can, that is really valuable (knowing the system completely coupled with the ability). McCarthy needs to split him out more just like the Pat's did with James White, instead he sends lumbering Richard Rodgers or Kuhn out wide, figure that one out ? This organization no matter how much the fans want to replace Starks values his contributions, he stays unless they sign Forte.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:08 am

"instead he sends lumbering Richard Rodgers or Kuhn out wide, figure that one out ?"

I'm still trying to, but I hope that we don't see that this year at all!

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:23 am

Unless Rodgers were to lose like 30 lbs...

I hope they find another TE that can do that type of stuff.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:37 am

Me as well. It's been too long since we have had a TE that is a serious threat. I would be happy to have one that not only can run after the catch but drags people with him down the field.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:58 am

I like Rodgers, but he isn't that type of player. Which is fine. You need players like Rodgers too, that simple make the play that is needed.

But they really need a player that can do that.

They really do need a big target that can threaten the seam with size and speed.

For what the Packers need I still like Adams the best. I think he provides the best abilities for what the Packers need.

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lou's picture

March 01, 2016 at 02:57 pm

Here is a complete review of Adams season, the stats say you have the wrong guy by a long shot;

As a result, in part, the Packers passing offense tied for 25th in the NFL and fell outside of the top 10 for the first time ever with Aaron Rodgers at starting quarterback.

So, let me pose this question: is our sample size large enough to call Adams a bust?

Statistically, the answer is yes.

Often times, Adams seemed a little like a scapegoat for the lack of offensive production – but the numbers indicate that he was among the least efficient receivers in the NFL.

According to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics—Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) and Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) – Adams’ overall rating in 2015 was second-last among receivers who qualify (targeted at least 50 times), and better only than Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams.

In layman’s terms, DYAR ranks a wide receiver’s overall value, while DVOA ranks a wide receiver’s value-per-play. Of the 87 receivers targeted 50 or more times, Adams was No. 86 in DYAR and No. 84 in DVOA.

Adams’ yard-per-catch average (9.7) exceeded only Austin (9.1) and the Lions’ Golden Tate (9.0), and was the worst the Packers had seen since 1951.

Adams had just one touchdown reception in 2015 – a number that seems nearly impossible for a receiver that was healthy most of the season and the reigning NFL MVP throwing him the ball.

Although General Manager Ted Thompson has never missed on a WR/TE drafted in the top three rounds – Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb are among the pass catchers drafted in either Rd. 2 or Rd. 3 – it might be time we chalk up Adams as a miss.

I’m tempted to say that he deserves one more season to earn his keep, but with Nelson returning and the emergence of Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis, Adams’ productivity does not warrant playing time. There is also the potential of Ty Montgomery making an impact after an ankle injury cut his rookie campaign short, and the chance Thompson uses a Day 1 or Day 2 pick on a wide receiver.

One play in particular stands out to me in my “does-this-player-really-want-to-be-on-the-field?” evaluation of Adams.

Week 12. Thanksgiving night – Packers v. Bears. Brett Favre’s name and retired No. 4 jersey revealed on Lambeau Field’s North façade at halftime. An ailing, yet exuberant Bart Starr emerged from the tunnel to greet Favre and congratulate him.

The Packers trailed 17-13 with just over three minutes in the fourth quarter, but were driving on the Chicago defense and at midfield. Rodgers looked to Adams on a routine slant, and Adams was bumped off of his route by Chris Prosinksi, gave zero effort to fight through the screen and allowed an otherwise on-target pass from Rodgers to drift into the arms of Tracy Porter.

Remarkably, the Packers had another chance to take the lead with under 30 seconds to play. A fourth-and-goal pass thrown to Adams, that was objectively a touch high, went through the hands of Adams.

The Bears won 17-13.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 01, 2016 at 03:17 pm

Great write up.

But I was referring to Jerell Adams - the TE from South Carolina.

I think Jerell is the TE the Packers need to take their offense over the top. He brings much needed size and speed to the position. He is great at Running after the Catch.

He reminds me of Finley. He could do many of the things that Finley was able to do, that Rodgers can't do.

For the Packers offense Jerell Adams is a guy that could improve them.

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lou's picture

March 01, 2016 at 04:18 pm

Sorry, I hope Jerell Adams or Nick Vannette from Ohio State find their way to Packer training camp, if you watched the combine on the NFL network yesterday, Greg Olsen had high praise for Vannette. Wouldn't it be great if we could trade for a guy like Olsen for a 3rd round pick, what were the Bear's thinking ?

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 02, 2016 at 06:24 am

No problem.

Yeah, those are probably the 2 TE's I like the most. Henry is good, but I think they will likely have to use a 1st round pick on him. I am not sure if he is worth of the 1st round pick. I think you get better value in Vannett or Adams in the 2nd-3rd round area.

I still have no clue what the Bears were doing. But that is why they are the Bears. :)

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Tundraboy's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Thanks Lou for revisiting a day that will live in infamy! Just kidding. I see you are as pissed as a lot of us about the seeming lack of intensity with Bart in the house.

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holmesmd's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:14 am

Now here is a fan that knows what he's talking about! I completely agree Lou!!

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RobinsonDavis's picture

March 01, 2016 at 12:12 pm

I agree Lou! In my opinion the key here is 3-fold; 1) blitz pick-up/blocking for Rodgers is extremely important if we you wish to run 4 wide sets - especially with someone who holds the ball as long as Rodgers. Only with the most savvy Rookie, would you entrust something of this importance (I do not like the empty backfield sets). 2) The Packers have LARGER needs on the O-line, D-line, LB and Safety positions. No less than 10 players from these positions, who have regularly seen game time, are, or will be, free agents over the next two years. Thus, I am not of the camp that they will draft a "reliable", plug-n-play running back this year (at least, I hope not!). 3) I think Starks HAS contributed and is important as Cory points out, but if Forte wants to play here and the price is right, is anybody going to complain? Such a signing needs to happen quickly though....No games.

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Rossonero's picture

March 01, 2016 at 09:21 am

I could see a one year deal for cheap and as Lacy's insurance policy. However, Starks had plenty of chances to take the No. 1 job from Lacy and did not. Given his age and salary he wants, he should be gone. Packers can draft a RB as well.

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Tarynfor12's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:16 am

I have been a supporter of Starks since he was drafted but the use of "must sign" at this time leaves me unable to agree. He can be retained for a certain amount but "must" is ridiculous.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:24 am

The only true 'Must sign' player left is Crosby.

Yeah it would be nice if they resigned Raji, Neal, Perry... But the only true player that they have to bring back is Crosby.

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EdsLaces's picture

March 01, 2016 at 10:30 am

Too many fumbles. Good RB but hard to trust sometimes. Josh Ferguson 4th round or so ...boom..

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:25 am

I would take that.

I think they need to draft a RB. I like Crockett, but do you want to put all your eggs in that basket? I don't...

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 01, 2016 at 11:07 am

Never been on the Starks bandwagon. Have admitted that at times he has bailed the Packers out and played much better than I expected. I've eaten my crow.

That said, I can't imagine him getting more than a 1 year deal for much more than the veteran minimum. Like Kuhn, Starks is an older player with limitations and no real market outside of Green Bay.

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Lphill's picture

March 01, 2016 at 01:36 pm

Bring him back on a minimal contract get Crocket more involved , Lacy will bounce back no need to draft a RB this year , if Starks does not return I could see New England make an offer , they like vets with post season experience.

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AgrippaLII's picture

March 01, 2016 at 05:57 pm

Starks is one of the players I thought TT would try to resign...along with Cosby, Neal, Hayward, and Guion. Guion has been resigned to a very cap friendly contract because I believe he wanted to stay in Green Bay... but I expect the rest to test free agency...that's when Ted will make his pitch. I don't think Starks will draw a lot of interest given his age so TT should be able to sign him to a cap friendly deal. I still look for Ted to draft a RB even if he inks Starks.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 02, 2016 at 01:26 am

I don't get the Starks hate. He signed a 2 year, $3.25 million dollar contract with $725K guaranteed 2 yrs ago. I don't think he'll garner a significantly different contract this go-around. He is cheap insurance. Sign him, TT.

I also don't get all of the Crockett love. Jury is out on him. 16 offensive snaps, just 16 ST snaps, 9 carries for 21 yards and a 2.3 yd average, no receptions. Personally, I didn't care much which of Neal, Harris or Crockett made the team, but I liked both Harris and Raijon better than Crockett, but just a little.

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