Running back Ryan Grant's relative inactivity in 2012 represents a fair league-wide evaluation of his skill level at this point. Grant didn't participate in a training camp, got one carry during a four-week stint with the Washington Redskins and has been on the street since the end of October.
With that said, the Green Bay Packers could do a lot worse here in Week 14 after losing Cedric Benson for the season and perhaps James Starks as well. Whether or not Grant can be an explosive runner at age 29, there are a few things we can say with relative confidence amid an ESPNMilwaukee.com report that he has agreed to return to the Packers.
Grant's five years in the Packers' offense means he will slide into it seamlessly and presumably be ready to play as early as Sunday night's game against the Detroit Lions.
He will be in shape. No one has ever questioned his conditioning or work ethic.
He will be crafty. Although he might lack the power and speed of elite backs, Grant has always understood where to find yards. He has averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry in all but one of his NFL seasons, and even as his skills apparently diminished last season, he managed to produce 559 rushing yards while splitting time with Starks.
He can produce in the passing game.
He isn't likely to be a turnover machine, having fumbled seven times in 1,017 regular-season touches.
Most important, to me, is that Grant will give the Packers a reliable option to the decimated remainder of their backfield. Second-year player Alex Green has managed only 3.3 yards on 109 carries this season and doesn't have the look of a primary back. Johnny White and DuJuan Harris have combined for 29 NFL carries in their careers. And if John Kuhn is a candidate to be a feature back, there haven't been any indications to this point.
The Packers might not make Grant their primary back, but if nothing else he will give them an important security blanket to hedge against their otherwise unproven backfield.
I think I understand why the Packers tried to move on from Grant this season, and I get why they are going to re-sign him. This is an emergency move, one that relied on the good character of both sides to avoid burning bridges. Grant isn't the player the Packers envisioned in their backfield during the stretch run, but he might well prove to be their best option.