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Marshawn Lynch or Eddie Lacy?

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

On March 16, the Seattle Seahawks officially signed Eddie Lacy to join the backfield, with the hope that by adding him they will reinvigorate a running game that went from first in DVOA in 2014, to third in 2015, to 23rd last season. Since that moment when the team decided not to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch in February of 2015, the run game slowly deteriorated, first due to injury to Lynch, then injury and regression by Thomas Rawls. The attempted solution, for now, appears to be Lacy.

At 26, Lacy may only be halfway done with his career and it’s possible that we have yet to see his best efforts. As the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,139 yards, nine touchdowns, and 4.6 YPC in 2014. A poor turnout in 2015 caused him to be temporarily benched for James Starks, but he rebounded during his short stint as the lead back last season, averaging 5.1 YPC over five games before an ankle injury cost him an opportunity to cash in on his contract year.

His incentive-laden deal still pays him a base salary of $1.36 million, a $1.5 million signing bonus, up to $1 million in roster bonuses for being active during the season, $385,000 in bonuses for making weight, and up to $1.3 million in performance bonuses. There is not much money out there for running backs anymore (relatively “not much”), but the Seahawks have shown a willingness to pay a back big bucks because Pete Carroll values the position more than most coaches do in 2017. There was a time when Lacy’s career trajectory could be aligned with that of a young Lynch, but he needs to stay healthy and he needs to be in the proper shape. That doesn’t mean he needs to be lean — Eddie’s game is transfixed to being a bulky back — but he does need to be taking care of his body. If Lacy wins the starting job, whether it’s for performance or injury reasons, then he could certainly put up a new career-high for rushing yards. Seattle’s offense — and defense — has proven to allow for that in the recent past.

He does not appear to be the big splash addition that he may have been two years ago, but there is a chance that he is the same player he was back in 2013-2014, when Lacy was one of the top runners in the game. Aptly enough, that was also the last time that Lynch was playing at the top of his game.

On April 26, the Seahawks and Oakland Raiders finally came to terms on a deal to move Lynch from Seattle to the Bay Area. Lynch reportedly signed a two-year, $9 million deal, costing the Raiders just $2.5 million in 2017. However, Lynch can earn much more than that. Performance incentives go up to $3.9 million next season, depending on how many yards he gains and touchdowns he scores. Oakland was sixth in the NFL in rushing yards in 2016, though it was spread around by three players.

Lynch’s deal cost less in base value than Lacy’s, though it has more performance bonuses — of which Oakland will happily pay if he is that successful. The second year on the contract could be nice, or it could end up being fool’s gold as Lynch gets another year older.

Now 31, Lynch looks to become the eighth running back since 2005 to be that age (or older) and rush for 1,000 yards. The others are Frank Gore (twice), Thomas Jones, Ricky Williams, Fred Taylor, Tiki Barber, Curtis Martin, and Mike Anderson. I’m sure you’ve noticed that Gore is the only one who is even semi-recent. However, Lynch has the same advantage that Ricky once had — additional time off.

Lynch did not play last season and really did not play much in 2015. The last time he played a full, healthy year, Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns, with 4.7 yards per carry. Oakland’s top-end offensive line, led by Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn, blocked for 4.4 YPC, including 5.4 by DeAndre Washington and 5.9 by Jalen Richardson, now both set to backup Lynch.

Video of Lynch at OTAs this year could be deceptive, but it does conjure up those memories of just how amazing he used to be.

Lynch may be 31, but presumably he’s fresh, motivated, playing behind a much better offensive line than what he had during his last season in Seattle, and on an offense that was regularly scoring 30+ with Derek Carr at QB. I would not put any reasonable benchmark past Lynch for next season. He may be one of the oldest running backs in the league, but Tom Brady is the oldest quarterback. Larry Fitzgerald is the oldest receiver under contract right now, and he led the NFL in catches last season. If Lynch leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2017, it would be surprising, but mostly because few of us ever thought he’d play again. That being said, if Lynch has no impact next season, it would also not be surprising, because few of us ever thought he’d play again.

So, which running back was the better addition in 2017? The younger version of Marshawn Lynch who isn’t quite Marshawn Lynch, or the older version of Lynch who is literally Lynch, but maybe not the same Lynch?

Here’s a slightly different question, taking into account contract, age, and everything else:

Poll

Who was the better signing for 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Eddie Lacy
    (734 votes)
  • 32%
    Marshawn Lynch
    (361 votes)
1095 votes total Vote Now