With training camp in full swing in Green Bay, those watching the Packers closely might notice two stories. The first, of course, is whether or not Brett Favre will un-retire and cause a rift with the team. The other one is in regards to last year’s star running back Ryan Grant and the fact the team has not signed the exclusive rights free agent to a contract.
Several media outlets are reporting that Grant’s agent Alan Herman has broken off talks because he feels the Packers are making an offer that is unacceptable. And, I’m sure fans, weary of what is going on with Favre, will take that as yet another reason to criticize the team. But, there is a good reason for the move.
Grant nearly rushed for 1,000 yards last season despite the fact he wasn’t the starter until part of the way through the year. And, it’s easy to argue that, without his rushing ability, the team probably wouldn’t have made it to the NFC title game last year.
But, does one successful season automatically mean the team should give him a significant amount of money?
In 2005, unknown running back Samkon Gado emerged as a serviceable starter when the team suffered significant injuries to the position. He even set the Packers record for most rushing yards in a game by a rookie. But, in 2006, he took a step backwards and was eventually traded to the Houston Texans; who cut him a year later. Last season, he played for the Miami Dolphins and was so unimpressive they didn’t even bother to re-sign him.
The reality is a partial season or a whole season for that matter isn’t enough to adequately judge a running back. If you were to do that, Ron Dayne wouldn’t have been considered a draft bust, Kevin Jones would have been the next Barry Sanders in Detroit and Rashaan Salaam would have given the Chicago Bears their next great running back in 1996.
While I’m sure the Packers want Grant on the field, I think they are doing the wise thing and working out an incentive-laden contract that protects them if Grant turns out to be a one-season wonder. They have the leverage in the negotiations because, by being an exclusive rights free agent, he has to play for the team eventually or his career is over. Plus, the team has several running backs on the roster with the potential to be stars; including last year’s second round pick Brandon Jackson, who showed improvement toward the end of the season.
Grant may be their running back of the future; the next Ahman Green or Dorsey Levens. But, until they know for sure, it’s best to error on the side of caution when it comes to his contract.