In 2016, Eddie Lacy will be playing out the last year of his rookie contract. The workhorse back has been a major piece of the Green Bay Packers’ offense since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. A down year in 2015, however, saw Lacy’s weight and worth ethic called into question. He even briefly lost his starting spot to James Starks (though ultimately winning it back).
The Packers know how dominant Lacy can be as a running back. With news that he shed weight with infomercial warrior Tony Horton (and pictures proving Lacy’s new, svelte physique), the team is clearly expecting him to be on the top of his game this season.
Still, they may expect Lacy to prove himself one last time before offering him a contract, something the team will likely attempt well before Lacy hits the open market after the 2016 season. I would not be surprised in any way to see the Packers attempt to shore Lacy up sometime toward the end of the season, as the team did in 2015 with Mike Daniels.
But Lacy is not going to come cheap. In this year’s free agency frenzy, the top two running backs, Chris Ivory and Lamar Miller, were paid $6.4 and $6.5 million respectively. Lacy could easily demand more. At 25, Lacy is significantly younger than the 28 year old Chris Ivory. Lamar Miller is a year younger than Lacy but has been in the NFL one year longer. Lacy trumps Miller in just about every statistic imaginable. Other teams would be happy to dish out significant dough for a proven bruiser like Lacy, who is likely coming into the prime of his career.
Before the 2015 season, DeMarco Murray signed a deal worth over $8 million per year, including incentives. Murray was coming off of a career year in which he lead the league in rushing yards and finished as the top running back of 2014 (1,845 yards and 13 TDs). Lacy has never hit those kind of numbers, but in a bounce back year, he could certainly hit 1,300 yards and 12 or 13 TDs. Two years removed from the Murray deal, with the continued inflation of the salary cap, would it be so difficult to see Lacy looking for a similar contract?
Perhaps the Packers can utilize James Starks in their favor. While some teams will be happy to throw money at Lacy for what he’s already shown, a time-share at running back may moderate Lacy’s numbers and keep the interest in him from other teams at a simmer rather than a full boil. It also helps to spare Lacy and keep him healthy, something clearly in the Packers’ interests if they’re trying to keep Lacy for the long haul.
I suspect that the ending to this story really comes down to what Lacy wants. In other words, is Lacy happy with his role in Green Bay or will he search for top dollar?
The Packers have received two great seasons and one good one from Lacy. If there’s one commodity that Ted Thompson is happy to spend on, it’s his own guys. I think that Lacy will be better than ever this year, shedding off (literally and figuratively) the weight of last season. And I think that the Packers will be highly motivated to keep him.
But if Lacy wants to be paid like a top 3 running back, the Packers could elect to let him walk. I really do not expect that to happen, but it’s certainly possible. Fans should not assume that Lacy’s return is guaranteed. I do not think that the Packers will be offering Lacy the biggest contract that he could garner if he were to hit free agency. And I’m sure that he and his agent know that.
So until the Packers sign him to an extension, make sure to savor the most brutal running back the Packers have had in decades, just in case it’s a short lived run.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.