INDIANAPOLIS – Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy made it perfectly clear where he stands on free-agent running back Eddie Lacy.
“We’d like to get Eddie back,” McCarthy said on Wednesday at the Scouting Combine. “He’s our guy. He’s one of our core players.”
Lacy’s first two seasons were nothing short of outstanding with 3,001 total yards. His last two years, however, ruined Lacy’s value heading into free agency. An overweight Lacy ran for only 758 yards in 2015. A rejuvenated Lacy was on pace for about 1,150 yards before needing season-ending ankle surgery in 2016.
Based on what McCarthy said, Lacy would appear to be the Packers’ clear priority at running back. And that might take the team out of the running for veteran stars Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. With the Vikings’ decision to not pick up Peterson’s option, he’s an unrestricted free agent rather than a street free agent. That’s a critical difference, since signing Peterson would impact the compensatory-pick ledger. Charles, on the other hand, has had season-ending knee injuries in each of the past two seasons.
With or without Lacy (or another veteran), the Packers probably will be looking to add a running back through the draft. Unless Green Bay is convinced Montgomery can carry the ball 15-plus times a game throughout a 16-game season – and there is no evidence to suggest Montgomery would be up to the task – that back would more likely than not be in the Lacy mold as a banger capable of grinding out yardage between the tackles.
This is a terrific running back class – LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey could be first-round picks -- though it’s not necessarily a deep class of backs with that big, bruising skill-set.
Of the 30 running backs at the Scouting Combine (not including the two fullbacks), eight weighed in at 220-plus pounds. They are, in alphabetical order, Wisconsin’s Corey Clement (5-10, 220), Pittsburgh’s James Conner (6-1, 233), Texas’ D’Onta Foreman (6-0, 233), Fournette (6-0, 240), North Carolina’s Elijah Hood (6-0, 232), Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine (5-11, 233), West Virginia’s Rushel Shell (5-10, 227) and Michigan’s De’Veon Smith (5-11, 223). A ninth prospect is Oklahoma’s controversial Joe Mixon (6-1, 226).
Of that group, only five went through Combine testing: Clement (4.68 in the 40-yard dash), Conner (4.65), Fournette (4.51), Perine (4.65) and Shell (4.74).
For the record, Lacy didn’t test at the 2013 Scouting Combine but was timed in 4.64 seconds at his pro day.
If the Packers re-sign Lacy, they could go for the best available back, regardless of whether it’s a 225-pound banger or a 210-pound perimeter threat. The explosive and versatile McCaffrey, for instance, could be an inviting target if he’s available at No. 29, though he might be just a (better) version of Montgomery. But the Packers can’t be convinced Lacy will be a reliable option in 2017, let alone 2018 and beyond. And that could make drafting a big back a priority.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.