Should the Packers Bring Eddie Lacy Back?

Eddie Lacy’s weight and productivity were major topics of conversation last offseason, leading into training camp, during training camp, and into the regular season. While Lacy was generally more effective this season than in 2015, his weight reportedly shot back up again as soon as he was placed on injured reserve after a serious ankle injury in Week 6.

Lacy turns 27 in June and is fast approaching the age when running backs begin to break down. He’s an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Should the Packers bring him back?

Jon says: Yes, but only if he’s affordable

Over his past 16 games (including playoffs), Lacy has accumulated 1,010 yards and three touchdowns on 215 carries, a per carry average of 4.69 yards. That’s roughly in line with what the Packers got from him in 2014, his best season in Green Bay. That leads me to believe that the only way Lacy’s health has affected him is in how often he can be used, not his efficiency when he’s deployed.

With the emergence of Ty Montgomery as a legitimate contributor in the ground game, the Packers no longer need Lacy to carry all or even most of the load at running back. He can be deployed strategically and sporadically, which fits well with his...physical profile.

The sticking point will be Lacy’s price point. Though the NFL has by and large figured out that you don’t need to overpay for running backs, a few teams every year will still shell out relatively big contracts to players who find themselves closer to 30 than 20. Chris Ivory is almost exactly two years older than Lacy, and he managed to extract a five year, $32 million deal from the Jaguars.

If someone will give Ivory that kind of money, someone will give it to Lacy, too. If the Packers can get him on a deal that keeps him in the $3 to $4 million range or less per year, he should be back in Green Bay. If not, they should feel comfortable moving on.

Gary says: No, it’s time to move on

Eddie Lacy has had four years in Green Bay, but it’s now time to move on. He’s produced a number of highlight plays and big games, but nagging ankle and leg injuries alongside recent issues about his conditioning make him expendable. 

Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael stabilized the Packers running game after Lacy and James Starks were both shelved for long stretches of the season with injuries. Montgomery will enter next season as the de-facto starting running back, and Michael is a free agent. If Lacy returns, it will be in a different role than before.

Whether it’s fear of an injury or the offense “playing the hot hand,” Lacy’s only carried the ball 20 or more times in a game twice in the past two years. And that’s without another back with Montgomery’s skill in the backfield. If Lacy were to return in 2017, it’s possible he won’t match or exceed his average of 15 carries per game. Would that be enough carries for him to make an impact?

Montgomery’s strength is running out of the shotgun, where he’s averaged 6.4 yards over 54 carries. On the other hand, Lacy is a downhill runner who does best when he can gather some steam before he hits the line of scrimmage. In 320 carries out of the shotgun, he’s gained an average of 4.4 yards.

Lacy’s a fan favorite. Much like receiver Jared Abbrederis’ departure, it will be disappointing if he’s in another uniform next season. As the Packers offense continues to evolve around Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay would be best served to target running backs who aren’t solely downhill runners.