Did Seattle get a better deal with Eddie Lacy than did the Vikings with Latavius Murray?
It’s possible you missed it because it happened at about 11 p.m. Seattle time, but the Minnesota Vikings signed Latavius Murray to a three-year contract Wednesday night, making sure the now-former Oakland running back didn’t get out of town without a deal.
The news came a day after the Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy to a one-year deal worth up to $5.5 million, with the Seahawks and Vikings making the first two significant moves into a free agent running back market that had been slow to develop.
Seattle had been scheduled to host Murray for a visit this week before signing Lacy. Lacy, though, had also visited Minnesota and that may have helped convince the Seahawks to make an aggressive move to get Lacy signed before the Vikings could.
Also interesting in this is that the Seahawks also had Adrian Peterson in for a visit after signing Lacy. One wonders if that visit made clear to them that Peterson may not be returning to the Vikings, and might make Minnesota that much more intrigued in wanting to get Lacy, further compelling Seattle to strike quickly to get the Lacy deal done.
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Certainly, the Vikings worked fast to get a running back once Lacy was off the market, locking up Murray to a deal on the surface seems a larger investment than what Seattle made in Lacy — a three-year deal worth up to $15 million.
The devil, though, is always in the details in NFL contracts.
Seattle has guaranteed only $2.86 million to Lacy with the rest tied up in incentives, including $385,000 related to his much-discussed and sure-to-be-avidly-watched weight.
That it’s only a one-year deal also mitigates Seattle’s risk if Lacy proves a bust (though it also means the Seahawks would have to work to re-up Lacy next year if he proves to have the kind of season Seattle hopes).
Murray, meanwhile, got $3.4 million fully guaranteed at signing, but the Vikings can get out of the deal after the 2017 season if they want — Murray is due $5.15 million guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2018 new league year.
Murray and Lacy will each be 27 next season (Murray just turned 27 and Lacy does in June) and it’s not a coincidence that the first two running backs to sign significant deals were the younger ones and not 32-year-old Peterson or 30-year-old Jamaal Charles.
Lacy and Murray have fairly similar tread on their tires — Lacy has 788 career attempts, Murray 543.
They also have somewhat similar levels of production — Lacy a career yards-per-carry average of 4.4 and Murray 4.2.
Lacy, though, averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the five games he did play last season and led the NFL in yards after contact at 3.4.
Murray averaged just 4.0 yards last season for the second straight year, viewed as expendable by the Raiders, who didn’t see much difference between him and Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.
Lacy, though, is also coming off of ankle surgery — he was placed on the IR after playing five games last season — along with the questions about a weight rumored to be as high as 267 while the 6-3, 230-pound Murray has no real significant health question marks.
A Seahawks-colored view would seem to suggest Seattle got the better deal with a back with a better overall resume and likely more upside and a deal that mitigates the risk and will push Lacy to have to reach a number of incentives to get full value.
But for a more nuanced view, I asked salary cap analyst Jason Fitzerald of OvertheCap.com to compare the two deals.
It’s basically a draw.
Here’s his take.
“I guess it depends on what the end game is for the team,’’ Fitzgerald said. “Both players will essentially earn the same money this year. In my mind Lacy is a better player but by far the bigger risk because he’s hurt, has weight issues, etc.
“The downside is that on a one-year deal there is no future cost certainty. For example if Lacy had a monster year my guess is he could end up with a nice contract in the $6-7M a season range. At the least the team is probably going to have to guarantee two years of salary in that scenario. If Murray has the same kind of year he’s already locked in around $5M (though he does have incentives that can push that higher I’m not sure what the threshold is for those incentives).
“The downside of a poor performance is the same in both cases. The Vikings can cut Murray with minimal impact on the cap while Lacy’s contract expires. So there isn’t any benefit there for Seattle. But since Lacy has the higher ceiling he’s probably not going to take the same three-year deal Murray took and if Seattle values him much higher than Murray I don’t think there is any negative to take from the decision. So I’d
probably look at the two deals as relatively equal.’’