With the addition of former Packers running back Eddie Lacy on Tuesday, the Seahawks have now made two moves in free agency since the new league year began last week, and in both Lacy and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, the Seahawks hope they are adding players who will help them upgrade their running game.
That much was clear when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked about the signings on 710 ESPN Seattle Tuesday. Carroll and general manager John Schneider have long maintained that for the Seahawks to be their best, they need to not just run the ball well, but have a physical presence in the running game, which is why they wanted to add a physical back like Lacy.
"That's who we are and that's who we want to continue to be, so that's why we made this move," Carroll said on the John Clayton Show.
Later, when talking about the addition of both players, Carroll again pointed to the Seahawks' desire to run the ball more effectively than they did in 2016.
"We want to work really hard about regaining the mentality about running the football," Carroll said. "That's something that's really important to us. We knew that we lost that edge last year when Russell (Wilson) was hurt and when Thomas (Rawls) was hurt. Both of those guys were injured for eight weeks, nine weeks or something during the season, so it took us a while to get going, and we didn't find the kind of rhythm that we wanted. That's really important, because one of the main things we want to do is protect the passer better this year, and that does have a lot to do with how you run the football and how you're able to do the play-actions and the actions that we like to do with Russ. Russ needs all of those advantages to make us like we're capable of being. So that's how we've gone about it. We wanted to get some offensive line help and add experience—we're the youngest group in the NFL—and Luke has been around the league four years, that's important to us. So we'll continue to work that, we're not done with that, maybe. We'll see what happens.
"It will help us be a more balanced offense like we like. We want to really accentuate the emphasis on our pass protection, and I think this all fits together really well."
On the Lacy signing in particular, Carroll said, "We're excited. We've really respected his play, even going back to (the 2013 draft), because of the way he plays the game. He's really tough, he's physical, he's a big load. He's a big back in classic fashion, so he's an exciting guy to add to the mix. Thomas brings us great energy, and C.J. (Prosise) and Alex (Collins) both add in too. I think it can make a really good position group for us. We'll find a good rotation in here to help everybody out, but I like that we're bringing in a big, tough guy who's going to send a message with the way he plays the game."
Dating back to his USC days when Carroll had Reggie Bush and LenDale White sharing a backfield, Carroll has seen value in having multiple backs who can bring different elements to an offense. And one of the most important elements in that mix is the ability to set a tone with a physical style of running.
"Not everybody can be big and tough and strong, some guys are a different style, but when you've got one, man, it's really special," Carroll said. "We went all those years with Marshawn (Lynch), and everybody knew what we stood for and the style of play, so I'm hoping to just continue to add with Eddie and the way Thomas brings it, that's a great one-two punch sending a message about playing tough and physical. That's who we are and that's who we want to continue to be, so that's why we made this move."
And like Lynch, Lacey is more than just a physical back who can finish a run with contact.
"Both of those guys are really good all-around athletes too," Carroll said. "Eddie's a terrific hand-eye guy. He can catch the football like crazy, he can run routes. People don't necessarily see him that way, but it's that all-around athleticism that kind of makes them such dynamic players. So we're hoping we can bring out the very best of him."
As for concerns about Lacy's weight, something that at times was an issue for him in Green Bay, Carroll wants Lacy to be big, but in shape.
"He's a big back, he's a big guy," Carroll said. "There's nothing wrong with that, but there will be a real concerted effort to make sure he's at his very best. This is a hard time for him because he's working some rehab right now, but he is well aware of our expectations and the standard that we're setting. We would not have done this if we didn't have a really clear understanding of how we're going to go forward. This is a big deal for him, it's a one-year contract for him. This is a chance for him to prove it and show where he is in the league and how he fits in and how he can work to secure a good future for himself. He knows all of that, and coming here is really something he's pumped up about, because he knows how we see it too. We're going to get him in great shape, we're going to get him to show him at his very best. There's a weight in there that's a really good spot for him that he's working towards, and we'll do a nice job with that."
Take a look back at newly-signed Seahawks offensive lineman Luke Joeckel's NFL career.
As for the addition of Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Seahawks like not just his athletic ability, but also the versatility he showed moving from tackle to guard last season.
"He can play left tackle and left guard," Carroll said. "He was drafted as a left tackle, the second pick in the draft, because of all the measurables he has. He's perfectly suited to play left tackle, but he played left guard last year, and that's what makes him really valuable to us. We think this gives us an opportunity to work it out with the best of our other players as well. He can play both spots, and we'll see how that works. He's physical, he's smart, he's got great flexibility for a big man. He's really determined. He had two injuries that did cost him some, but he has played a lot of good football and we think he's got great upside. And he's young too, so we think we have a big future with him on the left side."
Joeckel is coming off of a knee injury that ended his 2016 season after four games, but Carroll said Joeckel is recovering well from that surgery: "He's five months into rehab and he's doing great. He's way ahead of schedule. He hasn't had one day of setback, so he's on a great track to make it back and be ready to go during this offseason. He'll be active and be able to be out on the field. He's already on the ground running and all of that. He looks to be making a great recovery."
Both Joeckel and Lacy are coming to Seattle on one-year deals, something Carroll says can be a positive both for the player and the team. And as the 2013 signings of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett showed, one-year signings don't necessarily mean a player is a short-term addition to the team.
"Sometimes it comes at the right time for a player, and if they make sense of the opportunity and they go about seizing the opportunity, then it can really work out great," Carroll said. "That's exactly what we've done with Luke Joeckel and Eddie…. They're so competitive, as I see it, that this brings out the very best and presses these guys. With both guys, we expect to do long-term deals, that's how we go into it and we're going to think that way until there's a reason to think otherwise. Our intentions are to get them to show where they stand, give themselves an opportunity to show what their value is on our club moving forward, and really challenge them also. These guys are such good competitors that they are ready to take the challenge, and I think they're going to show they can make the most of it."
In addition to the players the Seahawks acquired recently, Carroll also talked about a free agent who they didn't get, former Packers guard T.J. Lang, who visited Seattle but ended up signing with the Detroit Lions, his hometown team.
"Ultimately he chose to stay home," Carroll said. "They had just purchased a home on a lake. His wife is from the same area, there's big family connections right there. We thought we had him, and he was thinking really seriously about it. He had a great visit and fit in really well and all that, but when it came down to it, he had a chance to play at home and stay close to family, and that won out. So we couldn't do much about that other than just try to keep selling him on it. We got as far as we could."
Carroll said even getting close to signing Lang was another sign of how attractive the Seahawks have become to free agents because of their recent success and because of factors ranging from their fans to their facilities to the culture they have built here.
"We do get really good response," Carroll said. "We know guys are interested in playing with us, which we're really proud of… The whole style and culture we have here seems to be attractive; we really have a chance to get everybody. We should never have had a chance to get T.J. He had just purchased a home, his family is right there, he finally has a chance to go home, then we almost had the guy. That does speak to the players that are here and the coaches that are here and the way we're doing things."
Take a look back at running back Eddie Lacy's first four years in the NFL.