The Seahawks on Tuesday guaranteed $3 million to a free-agent running back who weighs 267 pounds.
His name is Eddie Lacy, but given his girth and apparent indifference to staying in shape, there’s a temptation to pronounce the name “Eddie Lazy.”
Lacy’s talent is beyond dispute. He earned the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with the Packers in 2013, and as recently as last season, before suffering an ankle injury that required surgery, he averaged 5.1 yards a carry through five games.
But he leaves Green Bay with a tainted reputation: A potential superstar who never quite lived up to the potential because there was too much on his plate.
Former Packers receiver Greg Jennings on Tuesday recalled Lacy’s chance to “do something special” with the team that drafted him.
“And he wasted it away,” Jennings told Fox Sports broadcaster Colin Cowherd, “because he was unwilling to commit to his health.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows all about Lacy’s history. Carroll knows, too, that the world’s most ambitious dieting regimen won’t transform Lacy from a 267-pound moose into a 230-pound bull.
“He’s a big back. He’s a big guy,” Carroll told 710-AM’s John Clayton. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
The Seahawks envision Lacy, motivated by his one-year contract, trimming down to about 245 pounds. That would be just right for the 10-15 carries a game he figures to get in a backfield rotation occupied by the sometimes spectacular, often injured likes of Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise.
Big backs aren’t necessarily a liability. The late Cleveland Browns’ fullback Marion Motley was listed at 238 pounds, which in the late 1940s found Motley heavier than almost everybody challenged to bring him down. Motley averaged 5.7 yards per rushing attempt — a career record for fullbacks that never will be broken, as ball-carrying fullbacks have been phased out of football — and when he wasn’t punishing opponents on offense, he punished them on defense as a linebacker.
Although his Hall-of-Fame career was cut short by a knee injury, Motley’s combination of size, speed and agility is the stuff of legend. Former Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman, widely regarded as the sport’s most qualified historian — he authored two versions of “The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” — insisted Motley was the best pro player ever to take the field.
The Seahawks aren’t guaranteeing $3 million to Lacy with the expectation he’ll show up at CenturyLink Field as the reincarnation of Motley. For that matter, they aren’t expecting Lacy to make Seahawks fans forget the retired Marshawn Lynch.
But there are some similarities.
Lynch was a productive back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards during his first two seasons in Buffalo. Lacy did that in Green Bay.
When Lynch fell out of favor with the Bills because of a perceived attitude problem, the Seahawks acquired him at the modest cost of a 2011 fourth-round draft pick and a conditional, fifth-round pick in 2012.
The price for Lacy was similarly agreeable. Without having to sacrifice any draft choices, the Hawks picked up the kind of bruising back whose size could compensate for the narrow-to-non-existent running lane openings provided by a patchwork offensive line.
Lynch, a Cal product, never seemed comfortable transitioning from a warm-weather climate to those harsh Buffalo winters that begin in mid-October. It’s reasonable to presume that Lacy, who grew up in Louisiana before putting himself on the national college map at Alabama, never seemed entirely comfortable in Green Bay.
Lynch was 24 years old when the Seahawks extended him the change-of-scenery lifeline that salvaged his career after roughly 3 1/2 seasons. Lacy is 26, with roughly three and a half seasons under his extra-long belt.
Lynch presented a low-risk gamble with a chance of a high return, and he delivered in a way nobody imagined. Lacy could be a bust — the lug whose appetite for fast food will trump his determination to excel — but he also might thrive in the same upbeat environment that inspired Lynch.
Welcome to your new world, Eddie. Just remember: There’s fruit in the buffet line and vegetables, too.
Here’s hoping to see you at 245.