The Eagles will need to do something at RB this offseason. Ryan Mathews was the primary back in 2016, but he will be cut in the near future. The team has a good group of runners in Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner, Byron Marshall and Terrell Watson, but there is no lead dog.
The Eagles have some options. They could add a high quality veteran to be “the man” for the foreseeable future. They can spend an early pick on a RB. They can add a RB in the mid to late rounds and try to build a RB by committee type of group.
The team could also take a chance on a veteran who has boom or bust potential. Eddie Lacy would be an interesting target of this variety.
Lacy is a free agent this offseason, and while you never know about these things, he’ll probably have limited value on the NFL’s open market. Teams are aware of his weight problems, and he’s coming off an ankle injury that required surgery and ended his 2016 season after five games.
So there’s a good chance Lacy will have to sign a one-year deal to prove to the league his ankle is fine and he can get, and keep, the weight off.
I contacted an agent who has studied the running back market because of a client hitting free agency, and he guessed that Lacy will get a deal worth about $2 million plus plenty of incentives. Maybe it will end up being more, but if it’s even near that range, that’s low risk for the Packers.
It’s worth a last shot because Lacy is one of general manager Ted Thompson’s most talented picks of the last several drafts and at age 26 (27 in June) isn’t quite old even for a position that ages like dog years. When he’s healthy and not carrying too many extra pounds, he can be a difference maker.
If the Packers do it, they should make a couple of commitments as well. One is ensuring they’re not in any way enabling Lacy. The other is something Thompson failed to do last year: Hedge the bet by drafting a running back.
There’s reason to be a Lacy skeptic. He had everything to play for (i.e., a new contract) in 2016, but after losing weight early in the spring he slowly put it back on until by the start of the season he looked like he was pretty much back where he’d ended 2015. Then several months of limited activity after ankle surgery made the hill climb even higher. Based on his last sighting during media availability in the locker room in January, he if anything has added a few pounds.
Why would you want a fat guy with a gimpy ankle?
Lacy is talented. He is a big, power runner who would be interesting to pair with Sproles and Smallwood. Lacy is very physical and that’s something Mathews brought to the offense last year. It would be good to have a physical presence in the run game.
This would be a complete roll of the dice. Lacy might not work out at all. But you only try this on a cheap, one-year deal. You see if you can catch lightning in a bottle.
I will admit to kicking around the idea of Adrian Peterson, who the Vikings may be cutting. He’s going to turn 32 in 5 weeks and is a declining player. Adding him would hardly be building around Carson Wentz. At the same time, it would be interesting to see how AP would do playing behind a good OL and in an offense with a functional passing game. The days of feeding him the ball 25 times a game are over. If you made him part of an offense instead of The Offense, AP might have a couple of good years left.
A team that is a serious contender is more likely to look at AP as a short term fit. The Eagles want to be better in 2017, but also have an eye on the future as well. Calling this a long shot would be putting it mildly. Still, it is fun to close your eyes and imagine AP wearing midnight green and just running over Dallas Cowboys.
I know more than a few people would say just draft Dalvin Cook and you’ve solved RB for the next 5 to 7 years. This isn’t a great RB class, but there are some very interesting options, early and late. I do hope the Eagles go after someone with some size/strength. The run game was very impressive at times last year. Sproles and Smallwood have some shake ‘n bake. I think the focus should be on a more downhill runner with some pop. Cook is so good that he can do it all. I just don’t know if the Eagles will like him enough to spend a Top 15 pick on him.
I don’t think the team has to invest heavy resources at RB this year. They have enough talent that they could have a functional running game as is. Obviously you’d like more than that. The beauty of RB is that you can find great players all over. Ezekiel Elliot was a Top 5 pick. The Eagles found great players after that, LeSean McCoy in the 2nd round and Brian Westbrook in the 3rd. Some elite runners weren’t even drafted. Priest Holmes and Arian Foster were both UDFAs.
Because of the RBs already on the roster, the Eagles can take a chance this year if they want. Darren Sproles says this will be his final year. That means next year there will be more pressure to have a good player to pair with Smallwood. The Eagles could decide they want to see what they have in Smallwood, Barner and Marshall. Sometimes that answer is right there in front of you.
Lots of options.