With free agency ready to get underway, one position is to bound to dominate the storylines this week: running back. Adding to the mixture of an already crowded market are recently released All-Pro veterans Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, both of whom will find work in 2017 despite their age and injuries. Other running backs testing free agency this week include Latavius Murray, Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Gillislee, and the focal point of this piece, Eddie Lacy.
After winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, Eddie Lacy has cooled off statistically every season since following his rookie season high water mark. After rushing for over 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first two seasons, Lacy has managed just over 1,000 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns (yes, just three) in his last two seasons. On top of that, Lacy’s also had a notorious fight with weight loss the last two seasons. Coming off a season that ended prematurely with an ankle injury, the future looks rather uncertain for Eddie Darwin Lacy, Jr.
As a Green Bay Packers fan, I want Lacy back on a cheap one- to two-year “prove it” deal in the range of $3-4M/year. As a dynasty owner with Lacy on their roster, I want him to be successful regardless of what team he is on. So in looking to write this piece, the biggest question I had to ask myself was, “What will allow Eddie Lacy to become a viable running back in 2017?” And the answer is rather simple: it all depends on his landing spot in free agency (and possibly his diet).
These are the teams that would help make Eddie Lacy relevant again in 2017:
- New York Giants: Eddie Lacy would be a great complementary running back to pair with 2016 fifth round selection Paul Perkins. Most people forget that the Packers drafted two running backs in 2013: Lacy in the second round and Jonathan Franklin (out of UCLA just like Perkins) in the fourth. The two were meant to be seen as the Packers’ “Thunder and Lightning” combo, and it would bode well for the Giants to bring some thunder to a running game that ranked 29th in 2016.
- New England Patriots: With the Patriots beginning to prepare for life post-LeGarrette Blount, the team will start looking to fill the void for 2017. While most if not all Patriots fans would love to see the organization look to Jamaal Charles or Adrian Peterson to come in and fill that void, one name they should also consider is Eddie Lacy. His power running style is much closer to that of Blount, and we all know how successful that made him last season (1,161 yards and a whopping 18 rushing touchdowns).
- Minnesota Vikings: Similar to the situation in Foxborough, the Vikings are now in need of a workhorse running back with the departure of AP. The ragtag combination of Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, and Ronnie Hillman did not work in 2016, and more is needed from the running game to help the Vikings offense in 2017. As an added benefit, a stronger running game would help keep Sam Bradford upright in 2017 (Teddy Bridgewater will not be ready come September). Pairing Lacy with an athletic, pass-catching back in McKinnon may be just what this team needs.
- Green Bay Packers: This one is fairly obvious. He knows the offense. He knows the coaching staff. He obviously knows his way around the local restaurant scene. As previously stated, Lacy has experienced a variety of ups and downs during his time with the Packers. Nevertheless, the two are familiar with one another, and sometimes that’s all it takes. I’ve yet to be convinced a change in scenery is the best thing for Lacy’s career, and I’m not convinced the Packers want to go another full season without having a starting caliber running back on their roster. Not to mention, the team now has some “lighting” in Ty Montgomery at the position to pair with Lacy’s “thunder”.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Will Le’Veon Bell be healthy enough to remain on the field for an entire season? Will Le’Veon Bell stop smoking weed to remain eligible to be on the field? Both logical questions to ask considering the star running back’s history in the league. Regardless of the answer to those questions, the Pittsburgh Steelers will need to build up depth at the position with the expected departure of DeAngelo Williams. While this landing spot would not be ideal for Lacy, the past few seasons have shown that even Bell’s backup has fantasy relevance.
It’s hard to determine whether or not Eddie Lacy will be a productive running back in 2017 (and beyond) until we know his landing spot and the system he’ll be playing in. My gut tells me that the Packers will bring Lacy back and that it’s only a matter of how long and for how much. The Packers have also reportedly told Lacy that they want him back. If that is, in fact, the case, expect Lacy to return to his former self and once again become a top ten fantasy running back next season like he was when he first entered the league. As history has shown, a healthy, slim Eddie Lacy is a fantasy football stud.
Unless he decides to eat nothing but China food between now and September. Then all bets are off.
I'm bout to go get some china food 🙂
— Eddie Lacy (@Lil_Eazy_Ana_42) May 24, 2013