Packers could face competition for Starks

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) makes a catch and runs upfield as Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) tries to tackle him at Lambeau Field.

The Green Bay Packers may have some competition for James Starks.

The seventh-year running back was visiting with the New England Patriots on Thursday, an NFL source confirmed. ESPN’s Adam Caplan first reported the meeting.

Starks, who turned 30 last month, is one of the top remaining unrestricted free agents at the position after Matt Forte, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller and Chris Ivory all were scooped up on Wednesday. Starks recently completed a two-year, $3.25 million contract he signed with Green Bay in March 2014.

The Packers remain interested in re-signing Starks to back up starting running back Eddie Lacy. It's a role Starks has filled well the past three seasons. He had a career year in 2015 with 601 rushing yards, 392 receiving yards and five touchdowns. His only blemish was his career-high five fumbles (three lost).

The Packers reportedly expressed some interest in former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, but he agreed to a contract with the New York Jets on the opening day of free agency. The New York Daily News reported it’s a three-year, $12 million deal with $8 million guaranteed.

Starks’ visit is reminiscent of two years ago when he visited the Pittsburgh Steelers before re-signing with the Packers. After dealing with injuries his first three seasons, Starks since has played in 47 consecutive games with the Packers and is coming off the best season of his NFL career.

His performance in 2015 came at an important time with the struggles of his close friend Lacy. When Lacy rebounded late last season, the third-year running back credited Starks for having his back after Lacy missed curfew prior to a Dec. 3 game against Detroit.

If Starks leaves, the Packers have only Lacy and former undrafted free agent John Crockett under contract for 2016.

New England reportedly is also bringing in Los Angeles running back Benny Cunningham for a visit. and follow him on Twitter @WesHod. 

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