New England Patriots: Would Eddie Lacy Make Sense?
Whenever the New England Patriots are able to pair Tom Brady with a powerful running back who can churn out more than 1,000 yards in a given season, a huge season is sure to follow. The Patriots capped off a 14-2 campaign with a memorable Super Bowl comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and LeGarrette Blount played a huge role in their success on offense for most of the season, producing the best season of his career with 1,161 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.
Blount is 30 years old, but the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Naturally, he believes he still has plenty of tread on his tires and would like to stay with the team (per NFL.com) that has helped him win two Super Bowls.
It makes all the sense in the world for the Patriots to keep Blount. He’ll be extremely cheap, seeing as how his cap hit was just $1.025 million last season, and he’s a reliable force in between the tackles. Blount has improved in two key areas ever since joining the Patriots: he’s become better at finishing off drives at the goal line, and he’s managed to cut down on his fumbles.
That said, there’s always a chance the Patriots will have to part ways with Blount, because there are no guarantees in NFL free agency. After all, the Patriots are known for parting ways with veteran players after they have reached their peak, and it’s fair to wonder if Blount peaked last season. He took on a career-high 299 rushing attempts, so the Patriots may have been taking him out for a final spin.
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If that’s the case, then one possible option in free agency is Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy. A few days ago, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal paired Lacy with the Patriots in his attempt to have some “fun” with free agent fits in the AFC. Logan Ryan joining the Baltimore Ravens doesn’t sound exactly “fun,” but to each their own.
In any case, Lacy makes a lot of sense as an alternative to Blount. Even though he’s a big name, it would be a shock for him to be much more expensive than Blount. Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette asked an agent about Lacy’s future market, and the agent responded that the running back might have to settle for a one-year deal worth $2 million. Like Blount’s deal, Lacy’s contract would be spiced up with incentives, which is something the Patriots are always willing to do.
It would be a shock for anyone to commit more than one year to Lacy, whose weight issues have been well-documented. Any time an athlete—who isn’t a lineman—has trouble making weight (in either direction), it is a cause for concern. This may be a stretch, but some fans might wonder if Lacy loves the game of football enough to fit in with the Patriots.
Bill Belichick is a strict coach, but as a general manager, he’s shown a willingness to take fliers on cheap, no-risk players with question marks. It’s not as crazy as signing Tim Tebow either. For example, he brought in Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson in the past, and fans had openly questioned if either cared enough to get back on track in this league. Neither player worked out, but they didn’t exactly derail the team on the field or financially.
Lacy is a far more attractive signing than either of those two players, because he was still reasonably effective even with the weight issues. Look, Lacy wasn’t terrible in 2015, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 50.5 yards per game despite it being the worst year of his career. Last year before a season-ending injury, Lacy racked up 5.1 yards per carry.
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It’s easy to forget, but Lacy was one of the 10 best running backs in the NFL at the beginning of his career. The man was a machine in the Packers ground-breaking 2014 season, pumping out 1,139 rushing yards with nine touchdowns and 42 receptions.
Although the Patriots already have Dion Lewis and James White, having more of a three-down back leading the charge couldn’t hurt. Blount offers absolutely nothing in the passing game, whereas Lacy was a legitimate chain-mover in the Packers offense. Prior to setting career-highs as a receiver in 2014, Lacy made a huge effort to improve as a pass-catcher in the Packers fast-paced offense. Unlike division-mate Adrian Peterson, he succeeded in becoming a multi-dimensional back. Lacy may be heavy, but he’s no liability in the passing game.
On that note, we may need to rethink how big of a problem Lacy’s heaviness actually is. The Packers were always concerned about his weight, and yet he still played pretty well. If he can remain effective at that weight, would the Patriots care? In some ways, Belichick could see Lacy’s “weight issue” as being a huge positive, because it’s the main thing hurting his market value.
The assumption is that the Patriots will re-sign Blount, draft a running back high, or re-sign Blount and pair him with a mid-round back. These remain the most likely scenarios, but Lacy should be seen as a viable option due to his low price tag and prodigious talent. The former second-round pick out of Alabama is just 26, and he’s a no-nonsense rusher with great power, vision, and speed. He’s also a better pass-catcher and pass blocker than Blount, which can’t hurt his standing in the front office’s eyes.