INDIANAPOLIS – Ty Montgomery will be one of the Green Bay Packers’ running backs next season. Who will join him in the backfield?
Here are six high-profile possibilities.
Eddie Lacy. Lacy’s battle with the bulge notwithstanding, he was an effective runner for most of his four seasons in Green Bay. Lacy had 3,001 yards from scrimmage during his first two seasons, and was well on his way to bouncing back from a dreary 2015 season by averaging 5.1 yards per carry in five games in 2016 before a season-ending ankle injury. Coach Mike McCarthy on Wednesday offered strong support for Lacy’s free-agent return.
“We’d like to get Eddie back. He’s our guy. He’s one of our core players,” McCarthy said.
However, because of the weight issues, are the Packers better off just moving on?
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Adrian Peterson. In 10 seasons, Peterson has rushed for 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns. He’s led the NFL in rushing three times, including 1,485 yards in 2015. However, he missed most of the 2014 and 2016 seasons due to injuries. In three games last year, he averaged 1.9 yards per carry. Due to injuries, production and age (Peterson will turn 32 on March 21), the Vikings declined to pick up an option on Peterson’s contract, worth a whopping $18 million. The Vikings, however, haven’t closed the door on his return.
“One of the things that we do good with our players is we try to be as frank as we possibly can to them,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We allow these guys to go out and test the market, let them find out what their worth is. And then we try to figure out the situation. It can be beneficial to both sides. Adrian is a guy that has never been a free agent, so I think this is a good chance for him to go out and test the market and see what his value is. I think he understands there’s also a big benefit in finishing your career with one team.”
Given the sheer wear and tear, is Peterson done? Or, after years of being a marked man in Minnesota, might he be rejuvenated by running against a light box, as would be the case in Green Bay?
Jamaal Charles. In nine seasons, Charles has almost 10,000 scrimmage yards and has topped 1,000 rushing yards five times. However, he played a total of eight games due to injuries the past two seasons. By cutting Charles, who turned 30 on Dec. 27, the Chiefs saved about $6.2 million in cap space.
“Jamaal Charles, to me, is one of the finest football players to ever play in the National Football League,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “I was talking to (coach) Andy (Reid) yesterday, and he said that he thought that Jamaal may be a Hall of Famer. You know what, he may be. He has some stats here to back that stuff up. These are hard decisions to make when you have a player of that magnitude and that caliber. I wanted to do it early. I thought that would be fair for a player of his magnitude.”
In his prime, Charles – who ranks fourth in NFL history with a career mark of 5.5 yards per carry – was a dynamic rusher and receiver. Does he have anything left after a torn ACL in 2015 and lingering issues with the knee in 2016?
Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey. Those three are considered the top running backs in this year’s draft. All three could be available for Green Bay with the 29th pick. Or they could all be off the board.
Fournette, the 6-foot, 240-pounder from LSU, rushed for 1,953 yards in 2015 but was limited to 843 yards in 2016. The Packers historically have liked big backs, and his power could make him a nice counter-puncher to Montgomery.
“A lot of people think I’m just strong,” Fournette said. “Some people say I lack speed, lack burst. Tomorrow will show it all.”
Cook, the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder from Florida State, rushed for 4,464 yards in three seasons. That ranks second in ACC history, though he’s the only player with 4,000 rushing yards in three seasons. Cook, who caught 33 passes in 2016, said he patterned his game after Charles.
“We’ve got the top guys in this class at running back,” Cook said. “I think what separates me is I can do it all. I can stay on the field all three downs and I’m just a do-it-all back and I feel like I am the best back in this class.”
McCaffrey, the 5-foot-11, 202-pounder from Stanford, rushed for more than 3,600 yards and caught 82 passes during his final two seasons. He’s an electric playmaker, though perhaps he’s a bit too similar to Montgomery. His brother, Max, is a receiver on the Packers; his father, Ed, was a longtime NFL standout at receiver.
“I don’t think there's anyone else that can do all the things I can,” McCaffrey said, “as far as running between the tackles, outside pass protect, play X, Z, slot, and do a lot of things in the return game, as well. I think that's what sets me apart.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.