Packers position outlook: Running backs

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
12:00
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at what the Green Bay Packers have and what they need.

We can revisit this process before the draft based on what -- if anything -- general manager Ted Thompson does in free agency.

On Monday, we looked at the quarterback position.

Next up, running backs:

2014 free agents: Kahlil Bell, John Kuhn, James Starks.

Lacy
The good: Eddie Lacy, who rushed for an NFL-rookie best 1,178 yards, gave the Packers their first true franchise back since Ahman Green nearly a decade earlier. The only question about the second-round pick is whether he can withstand the kind of abuse he takes given that he refuses to go down easily. Lacy missed nearly two games early in the season because of a concussion, then battled a sprained ankle late in the season, but otherwise held up OK. Starks was productive in a backup role, averaging a career-best 5.5 yards per carry. Kuhn showed the value of keeping a fullback by making several key blocks on big plays throughout the season.

The bad: The Packers had hoped DuJuan Harris would team with Lacy to provide a 1-2 punch, but Harris’ season never got going. He suffered a knee injury in the offseason, was injured again in training camp and was placed on injured reserve. Rookie Johnathan Franklin showed potential when he rushed for 103 yards in Week 3 against the Bengals, but he fumbled late in that game and fell back to third on the depth chart before a late-season neck injury landed him on injured reserve.

The money: The Packers shouldn’t have to spend major money on this position for a while. Of the players under contract for next season, Lacy has the highest salary-cap figure at only $771,003, followed by Harris ($645,000) and Franklin ($596,367). If Starks does return, it likely would be for a minimum-type contract. The only expense here would be if they re-sign Kuhn, and even that likely won’t be anything enormous.

Draft priority: After picking Lacy in the second round and Franklin in the fourth last year, it’s unlikely the Packers would pick a back this year, especially if Harris’ knee checks out fine.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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