As expected, the Seattle Seahawks laced Eddie Lacy’s one-year contract with weight-based incentives, the first of which he earned on Monday when he came in under 255 lbs. Lacy “earned” $55,000 for that one, and he can accumulate a total of $385,000 if he manages to come in under weight for all seven weigh-in dates. However, Lacy can also earn a $1.3 million bonus if he rushes for 1,200 yards this season, a much more significant bump that would make all of those missed opportunities for “China Food” worth it.
But how likely is that?
Even if Lacy doesn’t hit 1,200, he can still earn bonuses for rushing yard totals. Reports have it that he’ll get $250,000 if he finishes with 800 yards, $500,000 at 900, $750,000 at 1,000, and $1 million at 1,100. That’s just a one-time bonus based on where he finishes, not an accumulation with each mark. Still, Lacy can get some serious bank if he commands the lead job at running back and remains healthy and consistent.
The biggest thing standing between Lacy and 1,200 yards is probably not his weight, but his competition. Two years ago, Thomas Rawls led the NFL in DYAR and was second in DVOA when he replaced Marshawn Lynch and made just seven starts. He also led the NFL in yards per carry that season. I still believe that Rawls is one of the most talented backs in the league, it’s just a matter of how long he can stay on the field. It seems to me that the Seahawks added Lacy not to replace Rawls, but to insure the position knowing that they can’t seriously rely on Rawls. Meaning, to me, that the first and second down carries will be shared if both players are healthy.
This would significantly harm Lacy’s chance at even reaching the 1,000-yard mark.
As far as third downs go, those would seem to belong to C.J. Prosise for anything longer than third-and-three. Lacy could get in there on those third-and-two situations, but it’s not like he’s going to be picking up more than two or three yards on most of those types of plays. Between Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise, Seattle already has a three-headed beast (remember when they only needed a one-headed beast?), but Lacy also knows that the other two heads have had their own problems staying on the field.
Next up is the amount of times the Seahawks choose to run next season. Over the course of Russell Wilson’s five seasons, his pass attempts per game have gone way up, by virtually 10/contest:
Russell Wilson’s pass attempts/game have increased every year since he was a rookie. His rush attempts have fallen for 3 straight seasons: pic.twitter.com/xLUjXl6nYm
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) May 16, 2017
Seattle finished 2016 just 20th in rush attempts (403), carrying it fewer times than even the New Orleans Saints. That was a significant drop-off from 2015, when they were third in rush attempts, with 500. I would assume that Pete Carroll wants to go back to 500 rush attempts, but that would also rely upon them being better than they were a year ago. If the defense is back up to elite levels, and Wilson is protected, I could definitely see them ramping up to being top-three in carries again … but being “elite” in anything is always a tall order. Wilson will still be passing it more than he was a few years ago, because that’s what great quarterbacks do.
If the Seahawks rush the ball 450 times, I’d assume about 70 carries go to Prosise, 80 carries go to Wilson, and the other 300 are split amongst Lacy and Rawls. (And miscellaneous running backs like Alex Collins, Chris Carson, or Troymaine Pope.) In a scenario where all three running backs are healthy, it would be hard to imagine a ceiling for Lacy that tops 200 rush attempts next season. Even at 5.0 yards per carry, that’s 1,000 yards. Lacy averaged 5.1 YPC last season but on only 71 attempts. His career average is 4.4 YPC, which on 200 attempts would mean 880 yards and land him the lowest yardage bonus on his contract, $250,000.
Put him in another scenario though, like Rawls is hurt or falls out of favor, and Lacy ends up as the leader in carries by a mile. His career-high for carries came as a rookie, when Lacy had 284 attempts, but he finished with just 1,178 yards on 4.1 YPC, still below the 1,200-yard mark — but obviously it’s not that far off; in 2011, Lynch rushed for 1,204 yards on only 4.2 YPC with Seattle. The next season, he rushed for 1,590 yards.
Lynch rushed for over 1,200 yards in all four seasons from 2011-2014.
That’s what a lead back can do for the Seahawks, we know that, but so far in his career Lacy has proven to be a good player but not on the level of Lynch. That being said, there are plenty of similarities to be made between pre-Seattle Lynch and pre-Seattle Lacy. Though Lynch never really dealt with competition like Rawls and Prosise during his formative years with the Seahawks.
The other thing of course is that Lacy needs to stay healthy and fit enough to compete on a week-to-week basis. He lost the starting job with the Packers in 2015 and then missed all but five games in 2016. There is a chance he becomes a star in Seattle, but perhaps an equal chance that we forget the Lacy era ever happened because it was so short; a younger version of the Edgerrin James era maybe.
I love the Eddie Lacy signing because it’s a low-risk deal for a young player who was a rising star not long ago. These types of moves have often paid off for the Seahawks. Even if he hits his weight and yardage bonuses and takes up more of Seattle’s $$$, it’ll be worth it because he gained yards and not lbs. I’m just not sure that Rawls is going to just step out of the way and let the Lacy era begin — he was also really good, and more recently than Lacy was really good.