James Starks is still going strong in Green Bay. At a disposable position, he has proven he's built to last.
The Niagara Falls native who turned 30 years old last month signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Green Bay Packers on Friday.
A free agent for the second time, Starks checked out his options. He even visited with the New England Patriots this spring. But ultimately, the Western New Yorker known as "Buck" in these parts decided to stay put in the same backfield as Aaron Rodgers.
Starks has been a valuable piece of the Packers' offense since breaking onto the scene as a sixth-round pick out of UB in 2010. That year, of course, he was the team's unsung hero through a Super Bowl run, supplying the offense instant balance with 315 rushing yards in four straight wins. The next few seasons he battled through a myriad of injuries to keep his job and then, in 2015, took on his greatest workload yet. With Eddie Lacy's weight ballooning and dulling his game, Starks got the call more often and usually responded.
The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder finished with a career-high 148 carries for 601 yards (4.1 avg.) and two touchdowns, in addition to a career-high 43 receptions for 392 yards and three scores. Green Bay's offense sputtered for stretches last season --- big plays were scarce --- but the team views Starks as part of the solution in 2016.
His one problem last season? Ball security. Starks fumbled five times, losing three. He'll have a new running backs coach in 2016 to help fix the issue in Ben Sirmans who replaces ex-Bills fullback Sam Gash.
So for a fourth straight season, it'll be Starks and Lacy in Green Bay's backfield. Despite the injuries, he hasn't shown signs of wear and tear quite yet. His hometown team has cycled through several different backs since that 2010 draft, too. The year Green Bay took Starks 193rd overall, the Buffalo Bills drafted C.J. Spiller ninth overall. Buffalo has itself one of the top tandems in LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, though McCoy could still face potential NFL suspension.
Starks has found his niche as a slashing, change of pace worth 10-15 touches a game. All indications this offseason are that Lacy has gotten his weight down, working with P90X founder Tony Horton. Either way, coach Mike McCarthy prefers to use two backs and Starks, who has 2,361 career rushing yards and nine touchdowns, will have a role.
Since Year 1 in the NFL, Starks has made it clear he wants to be a guiding light for his hometown, so he'll keep getting that chance with the team that drafted him.