The Seahawks have found their free-agent running back, agreeing to terms with former Packer Eddie Lacy on a one-year deal that’s reportedly worth up to $5.5 million with $3 million guaranteed.
Lacy’s agency, SportsTrust Advisors, announced the agreement Tuesday morning. ESPN’s Adam Schefter, among others, reported the terms.
At his best, Lacy has been the big – at times too big – power back that Seattle covets for its running game, which struggled in 2016 behind an inexperienced offensive line and the equally young backfield trio of Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lacy has averaged 2.15 yards per rush after first contact since his rookie season in 2013, which is indicative of his ability to break tackles. Of running backs with at least 500 attempts, that average is second only to Marshawn Lynch (2.20) in that timeframe.
“We’ve really respected his play for years, even going back to draft time, because of the way he plays the game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told John Clayton after Lacy’s deal was announced. “He’s really tough and he’s physical and he’s a big load. He’s a big back in classic fashion, so he’s an exciting guy to add to the mix.”
The one-year length reflects how it’s a so-called prove-it deal for Lacy as he comes off the least productive of his four NFL seasons. He began his career with consecutive 1,100-yard seasons after being chosen with the second-to-last pick in the second round in 2013, one spot before the Seahawks chose Christine Michael. Lacy rushed for 360 yards and a very healthy 5.1-yard average last season but played in only five games because of an ankle injury that required surgery.
Lacy told Schefter late last month that he’s still rehabbing the injury, which he said included ligament damage and required “two screws, two wires and a plate.” He said he was about three weeks away from being able to begin running on the ground and that he should be able to “do everything” once offseason programs begin in April.
Lacy has also struggled with his weight. The Packers listed him at 5 feet 11 and 234 pounds, but he reportedly got above 250 pounds last year after a well-documented effort to trim down over the offseason, which included personal training sessions with P90X founder Tony Horton. Packers coach Mike McCarthy publicly put Lacy on notice after the 2015 season, saying, “He cannot play at the weight he was at this year.”
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Lacy weighed 267 pounds during one of his three free-agent visits over the last week.
Carroll chuckled when asked if 235 pounds is an ideal weight for Lacy. He said, “In those 40s, he’s really dangerous,” seemingly an indication that Seattle wants Lacy in the 240-pound range.
“There will be a real concerted effort to make sure he’s at his best. This is a hard time for him because he’s working some rehab right now, but he is well aware of our expectations and the standards that we’re setting and that’s all part of – we would not have done this if we didn’t have a really clear understanding of how we’re going to go forward,” Carroll said.
“This is a big deal for him. It’s a one-year contract for him. This is a chance for him to prove it and show where he is in the league and how he fits in and how he can work to secure a good future for him. He knows all of that. Coming here is really something he’s pumped up about because he knows how we see it, too. So we’re gonna get him in great shape, we’re gonna get him … at his very best. There’s a weight in there that’s a really good spot for him that he’s working towards, and we’ll do a nice job with that.”
Seattle has been linked to at least three other free-agent running backs, reportedly meeting with Adrian Peterson and Lacy over the weekend and also setting up visits with Jamaal Charles and Latavius Murray. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Charles is still planning on visiting the Seahawks on Wednesday but Murray has cancelled his visit in light of Lacy’s deal.
The Seahawks being as active as they have been in the running-back market is a clear sign that they weren’t content with the trio of Rawls, Prosise and Collins. Rawls showed star potential as a rookie in 2015 and at times last year but has missed a combined 10 games over his first two seasons because of two serious injuries. Prosise had his moments of brilliance as a rookie last year but dealt with four different injuries and played in only six games. Collins, also a rookie last year, would seem to be in the biggest danger of being the odd-man-out.
Less clear is how exactly Lacy will fit into Seattle’s backfield. He’s making starter-level money, but the Seahawks have a well-established track record of leaving every spot open for competition and not determining playing time based on salary or draft position. Carroll mentioned Rawls several times throughout the interview with Clayton and said the combination of Rawls and Lacy gives Seattle a “great one-two punch sending a message about playing tough and physical. That’s who we are and that’s who we want to continue to be, so that’s why we’ve made this move.”
Lacy’s addition gives the Seahawks a surplus in their backfield, something they could have used last season while cycling through tailbacks. A whopping nine of them carried the ball for the Seahawks in 2016, a reflection of all the injuries – and in the case of Michael, who was cut midway through the year, inconsistency – that plagued Seattle’s running game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Seattle’s running backs combined for 1,182 yards in 2016, the fourth-lowest total in the NFL. Seattle’s running game as a whole finished 25th after ranking between first and fourth in each of the previous four years.
“Thomas brings us great energy and C.J. and Alex both add in, too. So I think it could make a really good position group for us,” Carroll said. “We’ll find a good rotation in here to help everyone out, but I like that we’re bringing in a big, tough guy that’s gonna send a message the way he plays the game.”
Lacy’s addition is the second significant move Seattle has made in free agency following the team’s signing of offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, also to a one-year deal worth up to $8 million. The Seahawks made a run at former Packers guard T.J. Lang before he signed with Detroit and reportedly have a visit scheduled with another former Packer, tight end Jared Cook.