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Should The Packers Trade For A Running Back?

The new trade deadline looms near and the Packers sorely need an upgrade in the running game. Should they try to snag one of the big name backs supposedly available?


Unlike many other sports, the trade deadline doesn’t typically raise many headlines in the NFL. The reason is because it’s typically so early in the year that most teams still think they have a chance and so don’t have some kind of MLB firesale right before the deadline. The NFL kept an early tradeline for many years in order to protect teams from themselves, and ensure that a team wouldn’t give away their roster in the hope of a good draft picks next year.

Well, the times they are a changin’. The NFL this year moved the trade deadline back two weeks and now it is landing on Tuesday. It is late enough for a few teams to have thrown in the towel for their season and may be looking to trade off player assets in the hopes of having a good draft in the spring. These teams are hoping that a playoff contender is missing a key player or two and could use some reinforcements. Mix that with duping off some bad contracts and it may be a win/win/win situation for the right team and player. The losing team gets rid of a dead weight and a hefty salary, the winning team gets more ammo for a playoff run, and the player gets a chance at a Super Bowl…and maybe some new hopes for a shiny contract.

This is the backdrop we find ourselves in right now. The Packers are a team that look playoff (and Super Bowl) bound. Yes, yesterday’s win wasn’t pretty, but I challenge all the Debbie Downers of our ranks to name a team in the NFL that isn’t flawed right now. Atlanta struggled with the Oakland Raiders who on about the same tier as the Jaguars. The Bears could barely put away the Panthers. The Niners have been inconsistent. The Giants are lucky to have split with the Cowboys and are the most inconsistent team in the NFL right now. That’s the lead dogs ladies and gentlemen…and the Packers look as good as any of them.

They do need a running game though. Alex Green looks to be a very capable third down back but he’s not a feature running back by any means. Maybe this will change as his knee gets stronger, but this year it’s looking like he’s not the answer. Cedric Benson is still MIA. There is a strong hope he’ll be back once NFL rules allow him to, but that is a ways away yet. James Starks seems to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, and didn’t look very consistent with the ball in his hands on Sunday either. Johnny White is a bit new to really be expected to contribute. What are the Packers to do?

Well, according to the talking heads, the rumbling is make a trade. There are two names that are bouncing around at the moment. The first is Steven Jackson. The Rams have been rumored to be putting on a fire sale since last week. They want more draft picks and shipping off Jackson could get that done. It makes sense, Jackson has a reduced contract that expires after this year. The Rams wouldn’t lose anything and the new team would get a chance to get some miles out of Jackson before having to pay him. The Rams would get something for him…and something more useful than a compensatory pick (since a pick they get in a trade now could be traded again in the future as compared to a compensatory pick).

Another name being thrown around is DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. He’s a bit younger than Jackson, but he is paid much more. Right now Williams is set to get paid $4.75 million in base salary this year and $5.75 million next year. Now some have pointed out that this would be difficult for the Panthers to swing this yeardue to cap penalties. Also keep in mind that the Panthers don’t have a general manager on staff at the moment so making a long term decision without that person in place just isn’t a very good idea.

So should the Packers make this sort of trade? Well, as annoying as it is to answer a question with a question….how many rental running backs do the Packers need?

Right now the Packers have Cedric Benson on the roster. He’s signed to a one year contract. Let’s be honest with ourselves here….Benson is not going be on this team next year. This is it for Benson and the Packers, and he’s worked out pretty well so far. Right now it also sounds like he will be able to return for the last month of the season. Thus, anything the Packers give up now will essentially be to have a running back for four games…and then what? Would Steven Jackson and Cedric Benson split carries? Would that even be effective for each of them?

Williams would bring up other issues. Our current cap space would be gone for the most part and we would be limited to our ability to sign Greg Jennings, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, and Aaron Rodgers. It wouldn’t be impossible, but then the cap does become a larger factor that it already is….all this for a back who does have some miles on him.

I’m not a fan of this sort of trade, but it’s understandable where this desire comes from. When the weather turns the Packers will need a running game to fall back on. Benson should supply it, but first the Packers will need to get through the Cardinals, the Lions, the Giants, and the Vikings. A good running back could be even more useful if the injuries to John Kuhn or Jordy Nelson are worse than suspected right now. That said, the relatively short term payoff for a long term asset (draft picks) makes the cost seem rather high….and the deal a bit rash.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.