Green Bay Packers: Will Thompson Pull Trigger on Williams, Barber or Slaton?

Nicholas KashianContributor IIOctober 18, 2010

Packers general manger Ted Thompson is in position to significantly improve his team prior to Tuedays NFL Trading deadline.
Packers general manger Ted Thompson is in position to significantly improve his team prior to Tuedays NFL Trading deadline.Darren Hauck/Getty Images

After being greeted with good news this morning, Green Bay Packers General Manger Ted Thompson has traded a conditional seventh-round pick in 2011 to the Jacksonville Jaguars for safety Anthony Smith.  

One can realistically hold out hope that perhaps suffering their second consecutive demoralizing overtime loss has motivated Thompson to bring in some help, even at the cost of precious future draft picks.  

If there ever was a good time for the struggling Packers to get some help in the form of a veteran player or two, that time is now, with the NFL trade deadline Tuesday at 3pm eastern.  

Green Bay faces mounting injury woes and the toughest stretch of their schedule, beginning next week Sunday Night at Lambeau Field against their old friends, future first-ballot Hall of Famers quarterback Brett Favre and receiver Randy Moss

In what is a huge NFC North divisional matchup, the 3-3 Packers, having lost their last two, and the 2-3 Vikings are both in need of a win to keep pace with the 4-2 division-leading Chicago Bears.

The week following the Vikings game, the Packers travel to New York to face the Jets before coming back to Green Bay to play the Dallas Cowboys. Then they have a much-needed bye week, followed by another matchup with Minnesota, this time on the road at Mall of America Field. 

Anthony Smith will certainly help immediately and likely will be the starter, as the Packers' secondary attempts to keep Moss, Vinsanthe Shiancoe, Percy Harvin and the Vikings' other receivers in check.  

How about a running back to keep the chains and the clock moving?

Thompson would effectively be killing two birds with one stone by acquiring a legitimate running back to pair with Brandon Jackson. A quality running game helps your offense score while keeping the other teams' offense and your banged-up defense off the field.  

In fact, by acquiring a back such as DeAngelo Williams, Marion Barber or Steve Slaton, Thompson would be killing multiple birds with one stone.

He would also be ensuring the Packers have a viable option for 2011, in case Ryan Grant struggles in his return from a very serious ankle injury. Additionally, he would give the offense the ability to operate with the type of run-pass balance that allows playaction to be extremely successful.  

DeAngelo Williams, the Carolina Panthers' starting running back, is in the final year of his contract, and the Panthers also have 2008 first-round pick Jonathan Stewart at the position leading to speculation that Carolina would be willing to at least listen to offers for him.

Only one seasons removed from the 2008 season in which he rushed for 1,515 yards, 5.5 yards a carry and an astonishing 18 touchdowns, the 27-year-old Williams is by far the best option available to the Packers.

The 5-9, 217-pound back has rushed for 4,167 yards up to this point in his NFL career, 2010 being his fifth season since entering the league out of Memphis in 2006. He boasts a career average of 5.1 yards a carry, and has scored 31 touchdowns in 63 games while starting just 36 of those contests.

Williams is also a competent receiver out of the backfield, having caught 114 passes in his career. Additionally, he is a perfect fit for the Packers' zone-blocking scheme, as he is a no-nonsense, decisive one-cut runner who is good between the tackles, but also has plenty of speed to get to the perimeter and be very dangerous.  

If Thompson can pry Williams away from the Panthers, it would be a major coup for the Packers organization.  

However, it will certainly take a third-round pick, perhaps even a second, to attain Williams, making the chances of him suiting up for the Packers a real longshot.

Other options that are far less attractive and more risky, but could still result in providing a much-needed boost to the Packers' sputtering offense, are Marion Barber and Steve Slaton.  

Word is Barber is available in a trade after his Dallas Cowboys failed to pull out a victory in Minnesota yesterday, falling to a dismal 1-4 on the year. The 5-11, 218-pound Barber has lost his starting job to 2008 first-round pick Felix Jones, making him further expendable.  

His play has fallen off in recent years due to his violent style of play, which has resulted in several nagging injuries that the back has had to try and work through. At 27, Barber may or may not have something left in the tank to contribute to a playoff contender.  

At the very least, his hard-nosed, never-say-die attitude would be a welcome addition to the team.  

So far in 2010, he has rushed for 175 yards on 52 carries for a modest 3.4 yards a carry. He has gained 4,159 yards in his six seasons for a 4.2-yard average while scoring 44 touchdowns.  

He also is a good receiver out of the backfield, having caught 169 passes in his career. He does have a bit of a fumbling problem with 15 in his career, but he has only lost five.

Bottom line: He is an injury risk, and I'm not sure his style of running is the best fit for the Packers' zone scheme. But he is better than Brandon Jackson and could be had for a fourth-round pick, making him a possible option to be a Packer for the remainder of 2010.

The 24-year-old Houston Texan Steve Slaton is the most intriguing, yet risky, option, for several reasons. 

First, he would be the cheapest to obtain, being that he has been in Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak's doghouse for quite sometime and likely could be had for a fifth or even sixth-round pick.

Second, he is just 24 years old, meaning he has the potential to help Green Bay right away, but also to develop in the Packers' system.

Third, of the three most likely backs to be traded to the Packers, the speedy Slaton is the best fit for the Packers zone-running scheme.  He has spent his first 2.25 seasons in Kubiak's offense, which employs many of the same zone-blocking principles.  

The 5-9, 204-pound Slaton has found his opportunties few and far between this season after starting 15 games as a rookie and 10 last season. He has carried just 19 times for 93 yards a respectable 4.9 yards a carry in 2010.  

His rookie season was fantastic, and if the Packers could coax him to regain that form, he would be a steal. He rushed for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and catching 50 passes for 377 yards and another touchdown.  

He has proven to be a very good catching the ball, as he has 97 catches for 805 yards in 33 career games in which he has played. He has started 26 of those games.  

However, Slaton has been inconsistent, and ther must be a reason he has fallen out ofe favor in Houston.  But sometimes all a young player needs is a change of scenery in order to finally get it and put their talents to best use.  

The Packers do have one other option to provide a lift to their running game in the form of rookie sixth-round pick James Starks. The 6-2, 217-pound back out of Buffalo has missed the first six games of the season on the physically unable to perform list, which he is eligible to come off as of yesterday.  

Although even head coach Mike McCarthy admitted that it was unreasonable to think the rookie, who missed his senior season at Buffalo and hasn't played in a game for almost two full years, to be able to contribute immediately.

So, the Packers could use additional reinforcements in the form of a running back. And maybe even a backup outside linebacker depending on the extent of Brady Poppinga's knee injury; he was expected to undergo a MRI today.  

We will find out soon if Thompson is able to get anything done before tomorrow's deadline.  

Here's to hoping he can.

The 3-3 Packers are at a breaking point, much as they were last season at 4-4 following a tough loss to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  

The outcome will be for the team to go one of two ways. Either they will sink or they will swim.  

Adding a talented veteran player such as Williams, Barber or Slaton could go a long way in ensuring their ability to swim into the playoffs in a wide-open NFC.


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