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Since free agency kicked off last Thursday, the running back puzzle was still a jumbled mess. The signings of Danny Woodhead and Jacquizz Rodgers didn't offer much clarity -- they were akin to finding the corner pieces. Now with Eddie Lacy signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, the picture is becoming more clear.
First, let's focus on what this does in Seattle. The Seahawks have two impressive runners in C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls, both of whom stole the spotlight at times in 2016. The only problem is both have issues staying healthy. Prosise went from a hamstring injury in the offseason to a hand injury early in the season to a fractured scapula that ended his season. Rawls came back from his broken ankle in 2015, only to miss more time recovering from it before suffering a shoulder injury of his own late in the year. Head coach Pete Carroll even went so far as to call out Prosise this January regarding the young runner's durability. All told, this resulted in Christine Michael leading the Seahawks in rushing in 2016, and he was cut by the team following a Week 10 win over the Patriots. Overall, the Seahawks fell to 25th in the league in rushing in 2016, the second-lowest mark of Carrolls' tenure in the Pacific Northwest (2010, 31st). Poor offensive line play and Russell Wilson's injuries also contributed to this lackluster showing, but it shouldn't surprise anyone that the team looked for an upgrade in free agency.
But is Lacy an upgrade? He was never the picture of health during his time in Green Bay, but often proved his toughness playing through lower body injuries. As Danny Kelly of The Ringer notes, Lacy fits the type of running back Pete Carroll covets. The gum-chewing coach desires "physical punishment" over all else in the running game, and when he's right, Lacy certainly can lower the boom. And while many are quick to disparage Lacy's 2016 tape, even though he was still carrying more weight than the Packers desired, the big back was running the ball well before suffering a serious ankle injury.
At worst, Lacy is another body who fits what Seattle wants in the ground game. At best, he recaptures his 2013-2014 form and stays in shape while chasing another contract in 2018. Let's not forget Lacy was the RB6 in each of those years, though it's been awhile since we've seen that player.
When it comes to fantasy draft time, Lacy should be the first name called out of the bunch, but not until at least the late/middle rounds and not before we see visible evidence of his health and conditioning. It stands to reason that the Seahawks, a well-run, meticulous franchise, wouldn't commit $3 million guaranteed to Lacy if they didn't believe in his recovery and weight issues (despite reports that he weighed 267 pounds for one team this past week), but I'll need him to pass the eye test before I buy in fully for fantasy. C.J. Prosise will be a nice late-round flier, especially in PPR leagues, while the Thomas Rawls truthers need our collective support. Unless this backfield looks to be a true committee, Rawls will be best left for handcuff status or a speed dial waiver-wire candidate ... at least for now. A lot could change between March and September, and it'll be important to track the status of all three of these backs in the coming months.
As for the rest of the league, Lacy officially leaving Green Bay exacerbates their need for a running back as Ty Montgomery is the ONLY back currently on the roster. Expect them to target a runner in the draft, if not before in free agency. This should rule out Adrian Peterson joining the Seahawks, though Jamaal Charles is curiously still visiting with the team this week. Also, Latavius Murray now seems to have a better chance of landing with the Vikings, and he's meeting with the team soon. Hopefully, Lacy's signing speeds up the rest of these pieces falling into place.