Green Bay Packers running back [intlink id=”64″ type=”category”]Ryan Grant[/intlink] is coming off a season that ended in week one courtesy of a broken ankle. He’s also entering the final year of his contract.
Grant will make $5.25 million in 2011, if everything goes according to plan. That comes courtesy of a $3.5 million base salary, a $750,000 roster bonus if he plays all 16 games, and a $1 million roster bonus due on the 15th day of the league year, whenever that turns out to be.
The roster bonus and the emergence of [intlink id=”1038″ type=”category”]James Starks[/intlink] has caused some to question whether Grant should be kept around for 2010, but the idea of the Packers cutting Grant seems somewhat preposterous.
Grant will only be 29 in December and has just three NFL seasons of carrying a full rushing load under his belt. The most carries he’s had in a season were the 312 he amassed in 2008. He had 282 in 2009 and only 188 in 2007.
In other words, even though he’s approaching the dreaded age of 30, Grant hasn’t taken enough punishment to completely drop off the map like so many running backs have at that age.
Releasing Grant before the season would also be foolish because of Starks’ lack of experience and his injury history.
Starks only has 110 carries in his pro career, including playoffs. He probably doesn’t even know the entire offense yet.
On top of that, he sat out his entire senior season at Buffalo with an injury, before starting his Packers’ career on the physically unable to perform list.
Of course, a lot of things can change in one year.
The coaching staff has been raving about Starks since the playoffs.
If Starks, who’s four years younger than Grant, proves he can stay healthy and performs like he did during the Packers Super Bowl run (81 carries for 315 yards), there aren’t a lot of reasons for the Packers to give Grant a big contract.
Certainly, Grant has some mileage left, but the Packers can’t give him a big-money, long-term contract because he’s bound to lose a step before it’s up, regardless of how many carries he’s had.
Grant will have to determine whether Green Bay is the best place for him. As long as Starks is in town and healthy, Grant won’t be getting the workload of a featured back.
There’s also the probability a team will offer Grant much more than the Packers if he hits free agency.
When you add it up, it looks like this is Grant’s last year in a Packers’ uniform.
Don’t be surprised if the team drafts a running back in the early rounds on draft day in preparation for his eventual departure.