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Patriots are the perfect team to turn Packers RB Eddie Lacy into a star

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The running back has struggled with weight problems in recent years. New England is the ideal place for him to succeed.

Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy will be a free agent in March and the New England Patriots should be the first in line to bring him into the organization. The 5’11, “240 pound” Lacy would be the perfect heir to RB LeGarrette Blount and offers upside as a receiver that Blount has been unable to provide.

When I list Lacy at “240 pounds”, I do so knowing that this is the crux of the running back’s problems in the NFL. He struggles with his weight and he’s been unable to stay in shape in Green Bay, fluctuating from 230 pounds to roughly 265 pounds on a month to month basis.

Lacy is a truly dominant running back when healthy and under weight control. He finished 2015 with his worst year in the NFL after playing at 260 pounds and fell to #2 on the Packers depth chart. Lacy tried to get into shape for 2016 and dropped into the 240 pound range after doing P90X, but he finished the season on the injured reserve with an ankle injury after he was suspected of ballooning back up to possibly 265 pounds. But even with the weight issues, Lacy was averaging a career-best 5.1 yards per carry this season.

While Lacy battled weight problems over the past two years, with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noting “he’s [Lacy] bigger than when he was a rookie” and “he cannot play at the weight he played at this year,” he was a svelte 230 pounds as a rookie and he was truly spectacular.

Lacy won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was even better in 2014, when he gained 115 yards on 22 touches during a 26-21 victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots. Over his first two years in the league, Lacy picked up 2,317 rushing yards (4.4 yards per carry) and 20 rushing touchdowns, in addition to 684 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns on 77 receptions, for a grand total of 3,001 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns, while only fumbling 4 times.

Lacy is one of 17 players in NFL history to rush for 2,000+ yards, to receive for another 500+, and to score 20+ touchdowns in his first two years in the league, joining the likes of Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Johnson, Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Gale Sayers, and Curtis Martin.

An Eddie Lacy at 230 pounds is one of the best running backs in the league and could be a dangerous option in the New England offense that lacks a bruising running back that can also catch out of the backfield.

While Lacy hasn’t worked out in the Packers system, the Patriots have a strong history of players succeeding with weight-clauses baked into their contracts. OT Marcus Cannon has weight clauses that involve three weigh-ins over the course of the offseason and is coming off the best season of his life after shedding additional weight prior to the season. DT Alan Branch has four weigh-ins over the course of the offseason and was the Patriots best defensive tackle in 2016 at the age of 32. DT Vince Wilfork had five weigh-ins in his final contract with the Patriots.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Pete Dougherty reports that Lacy will likely have to sign a one-year deal in the range of $2 milion, with performance incentives. Any contract with Lacy would require multiple offseason weigh-ins and constant attention during the regular season.

The Patriots have a great offseason training program that has allowed weight-challenged players to stay in shape and on track for the start of the season. Once the season begins, no team practices harder than New England with padded practices in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Lacy would have no choice but to remain in shape with the Patriots since head coach Bill Belichick makes the team run hills after every practice.

New England has a big back on the free agency call-waiting list in RB LeGarrette Blount, who would likely return on a similar 1-year, $1 million contract, with an additional $1 million in incentives. Blount represents a cost-effective alternative to Lacy and is coming off the best season of his career, including a league-leading and franchise record 18 rushing touchdowns in the regular season.

But a healthy Lacy is a far more versatile player than Blount and would be worth far more than $2 million if he is able to recapture his early-career success. The Patriots should try to strike a deal with Lacy and if the two sides don’t reach terms, then be happy to have a strong goal line runner like Blount for another year.