GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers definitely will need to seek a running back in the NFL draft this year.
Eddie Lacy, the team’s workhorse back, is signing with the Seattle Seahawks, his agents announced Tuesday on Twitter, removing a prime option to lead the running game in 2017.
According to a source familiar with the deal, Lacy signed one-year, $5.55 million contract with $3 million fully guaranteed.
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The Packers, along with the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, hosted Lacy on visits this week, mostly to examine his surgically repaired left ankle but also to talk about his conditioning and weight issues. According to a source from one of the teams Lacy visited, he weighed in at 267 pounds, 33 above his listed weight in Green Bay.
In a radio interview with KIRO in Seattle, coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks “want him big” but that they will have a plan for him to stay in the 240-pound range. Carroll said he thought Lacy finished runs in a similar fashion as his former star back Marshawn Lynch and was excited to have him.
“Both of those guys are really good all-around athletes,” Carroll said on a podcast on 710-AM in Seattle. “Eddie’s a terrific hand-eye guy. He can catch the football like crazy and he can run routes. People don’t see that all the time.”
All along, the Packers seemed to be interested in Lacy returning so he could team up with Ty Montgomery to form a physical duo. They are also high on Don Jackson, an undrafted free agent who started the year on the practice squad but was added to the 53-man roster on Oct. 20. Jackson played in three games and carried 10 times for 32 yards before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury
“I’d love to see Eddie back,” coach Mike McCarthy said at the onset of his team’s offseason. “Eddie is going through a medical situation. I clearly understand his contract situation. So that’s really something we’ll continue to work through.
“Until Eddie clears the medical threshold, we’ll have to see where we are.”
Lacy told ESPN a week before free agency that the Packers’ interest remained high.
“Talking to my agent,” he said, “the Packers have been very vocal about having me back there.”
Neither a Packers official nor Lacy available for comment after the signing.
Lacy, who has battled weight problems the past three seasons, played in 46 of his first 48 games, but last season he was put on injured reserve after five games because of ligament damage in his ankle. He finished the season with 71 carries for 360 yards and no touchdowns.
The Packers tried to replace Lacy with veteran James Starks, but as the season wore on McCarthy started using Montgomery there instead of his normal receiver position. Montgomery had some good moments, including a 16-carry, 162-yard, two-touchdown performance against Chicago at Soldier Field.
But he also managed just 91 yards on 25 carries in three playoff games, including just 17 on three rushes against Atlanta in the NFC championship game. Montgomery led the team in rushing in the regular season with 457 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries (5.9 average).
The Packers released Starks after the season, leaving Montgomery and Jackson as their only two backs. Free agent Christine Michael, who was acquired late in the season, is available and could be an option.
The most logical place for help is the draft. It is a particularly good year for running backs and it’s likely general manager Ted Thompson will address the position there.
Veteran free agents who remain unsigned include Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, DeAngelo Williams, Rashad Jennings, Justin Forsett and LaGarrette Blount.
Carroll said he wasn’t worried about the weight Lacy was at now because he is still rehabbing his ankle and isn’t into full training mode. He said Lacy understands that in order for him to cash in after a one-year deal, he must be in shape and have a big year.
“He’s a big back, he’s a big guy, nothing wrong with that,” Carroll said. “There will be a real concerted effort to make sure he’s at his very best. This is a hard time for him because he’s working some rehab, but he’s well aware of what our expectations are and the standards we’re setting. That’s all part of it.
“We would not have done this if we didn’t have a really clear understanding of how we’re going to go forward. This is a big deal for him, it’s a one-year contract for him. This is his chance to prove it.”
According to one of the sources, all three teams submitted similar offers, but Lacy picked Seattle because he felt it was the offense that put the most emphasis on the running game. Seattle returns the physical Thomas Rawls and the speedy C.J. Prosise and they’re hoping Lacy becomes the hammer that Lynch once supplied to the offense.
Seattle ranked 20th in the league in rushing attempts last year, but that was well ahead of Green Bay, which ranked 29th.
For his Packers career, Lacy carried 788 carries for 3,435 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.
Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this story.