The Green Bay Packers seem to have seen fit to undercut the Pittsburgh Steelers late last night, agreeing to terms on a new two-year contract with their own free agent running back, James Starks.
Starks, of course, was set to visit Pittsburgh today, with a fair likelihood of working out a deal, but that visit is now off.
As I wrote recently, Starks provided a complementary skill set that would have offered a nice substitute for what they were losing in Jonathan Dwyer, who favored his chances of playing time and advancement with the Arizona Cardinals rather than re-signing with the team that drafted him.
The Packers’ decision is somewhat surprising, in that it doesn’t appear to be a much needed signing. In addition to drafting 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy last year, they also drafted Johnathan Franklin, and they have DuJuan Harris under contract for one more season as well.
This places the Steelers in a bind, as they have no running backs with experience behind Le’Veon Bell, who is only entering his second season.
Behind Bell are just Alvester Alexander, who spent last season on the practice squad, Miguel Maysonet, and Tauren Poole. All three are former undrafted free agents with no playing experience.
As always, of course, there are other options to be had for the Steelers in free agency to supplement their dearth of talent in the running back stable, despite missing out on the chance to sign Starks.
As Dave Bryan wrote a few days ago, not much interest has been expressed in Knowshon Moreno, the Denver Broncos free agent who ran for 1038 yards on 241 carries and 10 rushing touchdowns last season, adding 60 receptions for 548 yards and an addition three touchdowns through the air.
Former New York Giants running back Andre Brown, displaced by their signing of Rashad Jennings and Peyton Hillis, is also a man without a team. He has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but he is capable of being highly successful, and has a fairly complete skill set.
I could list a myriad of names and the advantages and disadvantages of adding them to the roster, such as LeGarrette Blount’s inability to block, despite his hard-nosed running style, but until we start hearing more names, it seems fairly pointless.
I suspect that nothing has changed from earlier reports that the Steelers would like to retain LaRod Stephens-Howling, but that topic is a long way away as he continues to rehab a torn ACL suffered at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Felix Jones is also an option to return, but it seems that the likelihood of the team addressing the position through the draft is only increasing as the days tick by.