The Green Bay Packers’ two-year contract with James Starks shows that they think Starks fills a valuable niche in the NFL as a backup running back who gets five to 10 carries a game.
Though Starks has had injury issues when he’s had more of a primary role – he’s missed 29 of a possible 64 games in his four NFL seasons – he averaged a career-high 5.5 yards a carry last season as Eddie Lacy’s backup.
Starks turned down a visit to the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this week to sign new deal with the Packers that pays him a $725,000 signing bonus and is worth $3.165 million over the two seasons, according to a source with access to NFL salary information.
The deal includes a base salary this season of $750,000, $75,000 in a workout bonus, and significantly considering Starks’ injury history, per-game roster bonuses of $11,426 that will total $182,813 if he’s on the 46-man game-day roster for all 16 games.
Combined with the signing bonus, he’ll make about $1.73 million this year if he suits up for every game. His salary-cap number this year is $1.369 million.
In 2015, he’ll make a base salary of $1.175 million, a $75,000 roster bonus and up to $182,813 in per game roster bonuses. His 2015 cap number will be $1.796 million.
The Packers finished last season ranked No. 7 in the NFL in rushing yards, with Lacy (1,178 yards) and Starks (493 yards) accounting for almost 80 percent of the yardage. Starks averaged 6.8 carries in the 13 games he played last season – he missed three games because of a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his knee.
The Packers might have some lingering health concerns with the running backs behind Starks, because DuJuan Harris and Johnathan Franklin are coming off injuries.
Harris was expected to play a significant role last year but had a patellar-tendon injury that landed him on injured reserve in training camp. Franklin, a fourth-round draft pick last season, went on injured reserve late in the year because of a neck injury.