Green or Lynch?

Why University of California running back is too good to pass up

Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Green Bay Packers will allow running back Ahman Green to test his worth in the free-agent market.

Green is coming off his sixth 1,000-yard season in seven years with the Packers, as he rushed for 1,059 yards on 266 carries this past season. With 8,162 yards as a Packer, Green is 45 yards shy of tying Jim Taylor's all-time club rushing mark of 8,207 yards.

It would seem Green would prefer a return for multiple reasons, but maybe the biggest is becoming the Packers' all-time leading rusher.

It's not often a player gets to become a franchise's top rusher, especially one which has been around since 1919 and has the history the Packers do.

It would be smart for Green to window shop in free agency and then work something out with the Packers, and not just because of his rushing total. Although Green has been incredible during his seven-year Packers career, he is 30 years old, has suffered through injuries and his running style isn't one which avoids contact, rather he seeks it.

The "tread" on his "tires" is withering away and my guess is anybody who wants Green in the open market either is looking at him as a platoon-type of player or a one-year Band-aid. With that in mind, why leave?

Maybe he won't have a choice. The Packers' running back situation won't be cleared up until one of two things happen: First, the Packers re-sign Green and team him with Vernand Morency next season. Second, the Packers draft Cal running back Marshawn Lynch in the first round of the NFL draft, spelling the end of Green's run in Titletown.

Both situations are realistic, and for the Packers' sake the second case may be better. Lynch, who is projected as the draft's second best running back behind Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, is pegged to be selected in the middle of the first round. The Packers pick 16th and appear interested in Lynch as they were expected to meet with him today at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Lynch would give the Packers a legitimate "home-run" threat, making opponents worry more about the running game than if Green was in the backfield. Green did have a 70-yard TD run last season, but the speed he once had isn't there.

You hear all the time about possession receivers, well, Green has become a possession running back. He can make solid runs, but won't turn heads.

Also, Green's running style almost guarantees him of getting banged up at the least. Two years ago, he suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury.

The Packers must protect themselves against injury. Morency is a solid No. 2 back, but until further notice, hinging a running game on his shoulders alone would be a gamble.

But think of a Lynch-Morency combination. Youth and speed. Unless you have a LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander or Larry Johnson, a team is better off sharing carries, as the Packers did last year, to avoid tiring out a back late in the season.

One other option is free agency, but the most notable running backs likely to be available are Tennesee's Chris Brown, Indianapolis' Dominic Rhodes, and New England's Corey Dillon. Are any of these worth paying more money to than Green, especially after Rhodes was recently charged with driving under the influence?

If the Packers decide to sign Green, it's not a bad move. The veteran is reliable. However, inking Green for more than one season is risky.

When running backs hit the wall, they usually fall apart quickly. Emmitt Smith hit it and Dallas wasted no time in releasing the NFL's all-time leading rusher. The Cowboys couldn't risk keeping Smith just because of who he was. They had to do what was best for the team.

With that in mind, is re-signing or letting Green go the best for the Packers? GM Ted Thompson must decide, but it's possible he'll let somebody else make the decision for him.

If a team throws big money at Green, Thompson can look to the draft. If Green doesn't attract anything substantial, then the Packers can go at Green and sign him to a reasonable deal, since nobody else will be knocking his door down.

Or Thompson could wait and see if Lynch becomes available at No. 16. He can then weigh Lynch versus Green. If Lynch is there, can he pass up drafting a player of his age and talent? Just like Dallas did with Smith, the future would be the correct way to go.

Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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