Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Packers re-sign James Starks, add Letroy Guionlose; lose Evan Dietrich-Smith and James Jones

In the same week in which Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson arguably has his biggest impact free agent signing since Charles Woodson in the form of DE Julius Peppers, Thompson pulled off another surprise by re-signing unrestricted free agent RB James Starks to a two-year deal.

The general line of thought toward the end of last season -- despite the good performances by Starks down the stretch -- was that with Offensive Rookie of the Year sensation, Eddie Lacy, being the primary running back, and with a number of other options for third-down type backs in the fold, Starks might be the odd man out. He's had a history of injuries and not being on the field as a result. Always lots of potential on display but never enough longevity over the course of even a season.

But many Packer fans, including yours truly, thought that in those games where Lacy and Starks were both able to play, the Packers' running game took on an awesome capacity to punish defenses and open up the air attack for QB Aaron Rodgers and company. It would be nice to be able to keep Starks to spell Lacy, the thought was, and also to pair them up in the same backfield on occasion. Wow.

Well, apparently Thompson and others within the Packers brain trust must have been thinking along similar lines.

Now we'll have to see how this affects others in the backfield, including unrestricted free agent FB John Kuhn, who has been such a key cog in the offense for the last several seasons. Will the Pack re-sign him? Hope so. But don't count on it. It might be the case that you see the powerhouse Lacy blocking for Starks on those occasions when Kuhn may have been doing that job.

Thompson, as we noted in a prior post, also signed NT B.J. Raji for about half of what was in front of Raji last Fall in a one-year deal. A good re-signing in our opinion. He also locked up LB Mike Neal for a few years. Another good signing.

Thompson wasn't done trying to beef up the D-line, however. He also signed free agent and former ViQueens defensive tackle, Letroy Guion.

Being near the bottom of the defensive standings apparently was wearing a bit thin around 1265 Lombardi Avenue. Have to give Thompson and crew their due for their attempts to shore up the defense.

But the Packers also lost two good players this week, as well. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and WR James Jones signed with the Oakland Raiders. Word leaked out yesterday that apparently Rodgers wasn't happy that the Packers let his center depart; for at least the fourth time in as many years, Rodgers will be lining up behind a new center come this season. No doubt he wishes the Packers would settle on somebody in the middle and let him develop a rhythm with his center. Not this season anyway. James Jones was, in the view of some (including this writer) a bit under-appreciated in Green Bay. He wasn't flashy, and he could have frustrating lapses of concentration, especially on easy catches. But he was generally clutch, including in his yards-after-the-catch performances. I think the Packers will miss him more than they will admit to when it's all said and done.

Stay tuned, Packer fans. Perhaps Mr. Thompson still has got a few free agent signing tricks in his bag.