|New Packers RB Dimitri Nance (FKA Yakov Smirnov)|
Who the hell is this Dimitri of which you speak, you might ask? Well, he is a non-drafted free agent from ASU who was on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. I don't know anything about the guy, but signing Falcons cast-offs doesn't get me excited (though I guess it worked with Favre). Furthermore, what's with "Dimitri"? I can't name very many dudes with Russian names (and dreadlocks) that have made it big in the NFL. It's like we picked up Yakov Smirnov off waivers.
If you're going to sign someone off a practice squad, you'd theoretically pick up a back from your own practice squad. Isn't that why you have a practice squad? So you've got guys you can quickly sign who already know the playbook and are less likely to screw something up or be ineffective for weeks while they figure out where the toilets are??? The Packers have a back, James Johnson, on their practice squad. Or why not re-sign Kregg Lumpkin who looked pretty good in the pre-season before the Packers cut him? Oh, wait -- that's right. He signed with the Bucs, while we kept 2 RBs on our roster and 4 TEs!
Presumably the Packers are betting that sixth-round draft pick James Starks, who is currently on the PUP list, will be able to contribute after he returns, hopefully in week 7. But I'm not sure I put much more faith in him than Yakov. He didn't show much in pre-season, and rookies who are struggling with injuries typically struggle on the field as well -- if they ever get on it. I truly hope that the Packers management doesn't feel like this is an "answer" to the loss of Grant, but rather just a stop-gap measure until they figure out a longer term solution. Given Thompson's proclivity for un-drafted rookie free agents, I'm not holding out a lot of hope.
I'm far from an expert in trades, contracts, or free agency, but there are several other teams and players I'd be talking to if I were Thompson. Beyond my likely futile hope for Marshawn, the Broncos have quite a bit of depth at RB -- could see making a move for a LenDale White or Justin Fargas. The Patriots also have a glut of serviceable backs, with Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris as theoretical possibilities. Seattle has a crowded backfield as well, with Julius Jones evidently relegated to the third-string position they might be willing to deal him. Former Packer flash-in-the-pan Samkon Gado is playing for the Titans, and could be worth a look. Other possibilities to consider include Mike Bell in Philly (though he probably became more valuable to them after Leonard Weaver was lost for the season), Jerious Norwood in Atlanta (with Turner getting most of the touches), and even un-signed guys like the aforementioned Willie Parker, or even a Rudi Johnson or Jamal Lewis. These guys might be a reach, but could bring some spark and seniority like Ahman Green did last year. Again, I haven't really taken the time to research which of these potential moves are actually feasible -- more just a "top of mind" list. Please post any other ideas in the comments below.
The other move the Packers announced today was to re-sign DE Jarius Wynn. Wynn played for the Packers last year as a rookie but was cut this pre-season. This move makes more sense to me. At least Wynn comes in with some experience with the Packers defense. Keeping my fingers crossed that these are the last free agent signings we hear about.