Here is the second of a 10-part position-by-position analysis of the Packersí roster and how they should proceed during the offseason.
UNDER CONTRACT: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, Orwin Smith, Ina Liaina
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: John Kuhn, James Starks, Kahlil Bell
Where they stand
2013 second-rounder Eddie Lacy has become Ted Thompsonís best draft choice in the past four years. He earned rookie of the year and Pro Bowl honors while setting a Packersí first-year record for rushing yards and touchdowns. Lacy gives the Packers a legitimate 1-2 offensive threat alongside quarterback Aaron Rodgers, meaning defenses canít sit back and make the Packers beat them through the air anymore.
Lacy is the Packersí best running back since Ahman Green nearly a decade ago and assuming good health, is only going to get better. Behind Lacy the Packers climbed to No. 7 in the NFL in rushing yards, their highest ranking since 2003.
After rushing for 100 yards in the second half against Cincinnati in Week 3, rookie Jonathan Franklin was a forgotten man. Coaches lost some confidence in Franklin after two early-season fumbles, including one that handed the Bengals defense the game-winning touchdown. Franklin, who eventually landed on injured reserve, showed some speed and ability to move in the open field and has the potential to serve as a complement to the power-running Lacy. DuJuan Harris is another unsung player with potential Ė he was the No. 1 halfback on the depth chart entering training camp before getting shut down for the season last August with a knee injury, and should be in the mix for the No. 2 job behind Lacy.
It would be wise to re-sign the wily veteran John Kuhn, who might know the offense better than Rodgers and is invaluable on the field and in the locker room. Kuhnís key block against Chicagoís Julius Peppers in the season finale set up Rodgersí dramatic game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that lifted the Packers to the division title. Thatís the kind of play that makes Kuhn worth keeping, but he does too many other things well for the Packers to let him go. James Starks is another veteran who performed capably in limited duty spelling Lacy last season, but thereís only so much money to go around, and Kuhn should be a higher priority than Starks. With the cupboard well-stocked, the Packers shouldn't need to draft a running back this year.