The Green Bay Packers should re-sign free agent to be Eddie Lacy.
With the 2016 season at a close, that is the most intriguing question facing Ted Thompson and the Packers front office. After four years with the Packers, Lacy is scheduled to hit the open market on March 9 at 4 p.m. ET.
There was a point in time when Lacy looked like the unquestionable running back of the future for the Packers. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and followed that up with an even better 2014 campaign, topping 1,100 rushing yards in each of those seasons.
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But in 2015, however, we saw Lacy struggle with weight issues and inconsistency. He received just 187 carries after averaging 265 carries in his first two seasons, and James Starks picked up much of the burden.
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Lacy was seemingly a new man this offseason, looking relatively trim in training camp. He played well early in the season, averaging a career-best 5.1 yards per carry through five games. His weight, however, appeared to be back on the rise by the time he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys.
So where does that leave Lacy and the Packers now?
Michael showed speed, power, and burst in his limited time on the field this season. But he also showed the lapses in concentration that made the Seattle Seahawks release him in the first place, missing play calls and dropping a few passes.
It is unlikely that the Packers will bring back Michael, whose one-year contract is also set to expire.
Montgomery was fantastic with the ball in his hands last year. He had surprisingly good patience and vision for a former receiver, and he paired that with ample power and speed that Lacy will never have.
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Still, the Packers don’t seem to see him as a workhorse back. He surpassed 11 carries only one time last year (16 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15 against the Bears.) Additionally, he’s a liability in pass protection.
The Packers offense needs another legitimate running back. So that leaves them with two options: look to the draft, or re-sign Lacy.
There are certainly appealing options available in the NFL Draft. Todd McShay’s first mock draft has the Packers selecting Alvin Kamara of Tennesee in the first round, while Mel Kiper had the Packers picking Stanford standout Christian McCaffrey.
But the Packers already have so many needs to address in the draft, including cornerback and wide receiver.
Lacy’s weight and injury issues, meanwhile, have greatly decreased his value on the free agent market. He should be relatively affordable if Thompson wants to bring him back on a one-year or two-year deal.
That’s why I think the Packers should indeed re-sign Lacy if price permits. They have more than enough cap space following the release of Starks and Sam Shields to afford him.
Just as re-signing Nick Perry and Datone Jones would allay the need for an edge rusher in the draft, bringing back Eddie Lacy would allow the Packers to address more pressing concerns early in the draft.
Either way, the Packers will almost certainly pick a running back at some point. They just don’t have enough bodies at the position.
Ted Thompson would certainly be justified to let Lacy walk. But if I had my way, the team won’t be counting on a rookie to spell Montgomery this year.