Once you get over the oddity of having to pay a bonus to a professional athlete to show up for work in good physical condition, you can see some wisdom in the approach.
It’s how the Seahawks are dealing with new running back Eddie Lacy (formerly of the Green Bay Packers), whose performance the last two seasons has diminished because of injuries, along with the consensus that he’s been playing too heavy.
The Packers listed him at 234 pounds, but that appeared merely aspirational, and some reports held that he was threatening 270 pounds in the offseason.
So the Seahawks wrote weight-loss incentives into his free-agent contract, the first one being the gift of $55,000 to weigh less than 255 as of Monday. The target is for him to play at 245 this season, and there is more money to be earned along the way if he can pull it off.
Long gone are the days when any fiscal assessment of pro athletes’ contracts could be compared to the regular working stiff. But it’s fair to note that $55,000 is a decent wage for somebody to make for working an entire year.
Not just for getting in the gym and opting for healthier dietary options.
I would think that the guaranteed part of the contract, the reported $2.86 million, would be incentive enough to arrive in Seattle at the requested displacement.
There’s a couple ways to go on this. First, don’t bother with a free agent who hasn’t been able to manage the physical part of his preparation.
But Lacy is a power running back, the kind coach Pete Carroll loves. And beyond that, he’s more versatile than you might expect, having caught 99 passes in his first two seasons in addition to gaining more than 1,100 yards each season rushing.
Or, you could let the newcomer know that he’s being signed with certain contractual expectations in place. And if those aren’t met, fines would be levied.
But the approach of the Seahawks is to pay Lacy for making the weight rather than fining him for not making it.
The psychology of it is sound. Fine somebody and they’re likely to be resentful. Give them bonuses, and their emotional equity is enhanced.
The bonuses, we might suggest, serve as the dangling carrot for Lacy, an apt metaphor for a back who will benefit for being led to the salad bar.
Reportedly, Lacy could stand to rake in another $2.5 million or so in performance incentives this season. If he becomes the back who can reach those thresholds, he’ll be a bargain this season.
The one-year deal is another incentive because a fit and productive Lacy would be more attractive on the market heading into the next offseason.
It seems insensitive, and would be totally inappropriate in other professions, but sports is an environment in which participants so rely on the their physical makeup that their level of conditioning invites open public discussion.
We’re accustomed to such topics over the years around here.
Sonics forward Vin Baker arrived in Seattle as an All-Star, but his performance declined as he became increasingly unfit. It was later learned that he was dealing with alcohol abuse.
Mariners catcher Jesus Montero confessed one spring training that “… all I did after winter ball was eat.” Then-GM Jack Zduriencik was not pleased: “Any expectations I had (for him) are gone.”
At least as of the first weigh in, Lacy seems to be reaching his benchmarks.
Lacy recently held a garage sale in Green Bay to raise money for good causes. So he sounds like a nice man with a charitable heart.
A healthy and fit Eddie Lacy can make a difference for the 2017 Seahawks. In which case the weight-loss bonuses will be money well spent for the Seahawks — and pure gravy for Lacy.