The Green Bay Packers released running back James Starks on Tuesday, a move that frees up $3 million of salary-cap space.
Coming off a career-best season in 2015, Starks returned to the Packers in free agency — a two-year deal worth $6 million that included a $1.5 million signing bonus.
Starks, however, had a miserable season. In nine games, Starks rushed for 145 yards and averaged a woeful 2.3 yards per carry. Of 63 carries, he gained more than 10 yards just once. He averaged more than 2.8 yards per carry in only one game. After catching a career-high 43 passes in 2015, Starks caught 19 but had two drops, giving him a drop rate of 8.0 percent that was one of the worst in the league among players who were targeted at least 25 times.
Starks’ season can be broke into quarters: 24 carries for 42 yards in the first four games, inactive for four games following knee surgery, 39 carries for 103 in the next five games, inactive for the final six games (including playoffs) with a concussion suffered in an early-morning car accident.
That concussion presumably is why the Packers released Starks with a nonfootball-injury designation.
Starks will turn 31 on Feb. 25. In seven seasons, he rushed for 2,506 yards and nine touchdowns. A key to Green Bay’s run to a Super Bowl title as a rookie in 2010, Starks ranks third in franchise playoff history with 523 rushing yards.
Starks was due a base salary of $2.6 million, with $300,000 in roster bonuses and a $100,000 workout bonus. The Packers get that $3 million back for their salary cap, with $750,000 of prorated signing bonus counting as dead money. According to OverTheCap.com and its projected $168 million salary cap for 2017, the Packers had the 18th-most available cap space with just short of $31 million. Now that they’ll have just less than $34 million of cap space, Green Bay has the 16th-most space.
The Packers are incredibly thin at running back. Eddie Lacy and Christine Michael are set to become free agents, leaving Ty Montgomery (converted receiver), Don Jackson (injured reserve) and John Crockett (injured reserve) as the only backs on the roster.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.