Seahawks starting running back won’t be based on contract, but production

Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny may battle for the Seahawks running back job all summer. One thing that won’t matter is the size of anyone’s contract.

There’s been quite a bit of talk about last year’s “starting” running back Chris Carson. I used quotes because the man didn’t play past the first of October. But when you lose your job to injury, you’re typically considered the starter when you return. The Seahawks are no different than most teams in that regard. Although I suppose Wally Pipp might argue the point.

Regardless, the Seahawks made a pretty big investment in the running game this off-season. You may remember some  articles to that effect here and there. It’s fair to say the biggest investment was their first round pick Rashaad Penny. The former Aztec came to Seattle with some pretty outstanding credentials. You don’t see too many teams draft a guy in the first round just so he can play a back-up role. You certainly don’t see first rounders drafted to back up a second year player who was drafted in the seventh round, and who missed 12 games in his own rookie campaign.

Well, you don’t see it too often. You could definitely see it this year in Seattle, though. We can find a few examples of this in Seahawks history. Let’s go all the way back to 2017. That’s right, Carson’s rookie season. You’ve probably done everything you can to forget about Eddie Lacy. I know I’ve tried to forget what I wrote about him going into last season. The Seahawks didn’t have a ton of money for free agents in 2017 – sounds familiar, right- so signing Lacy was a big deal. And it took Pete Carroll all of five carries into the 2017 season to send his $5 million man to the bench and start the seventh round pick.

Seahawks have been down this road before

I know what you’re thinking. Lacy was just a one year free agent, and most of that money wasn’t even guaranteed (thank God). Rashaad Penny is supposed to be the real deal. He’s got a $10 million dollar contract. You don’t spend that much money to have a guy come off the bench. No way Seattle would ever start Carson over him. I know it’s ancient history, but think back to 2012.

The Seahawks were coming off Pete Carroll’s second straight 7-9 season. New quarterback Tarvaris Jackson didn’t exactly light it up in Seattle. Why anyone thought he would after five mediocre years as the Vikings backup is another topic entirely.  Seattle needed an answer. So of course they looked to the NFC North again, and signed another backup quarterback to be their future.

This time they were sure they hit the jackpot in Matt Flynn. Flynn had a much shorter track record than Jackson, but on the strength of his 124.6 passer rating, Seattle opened the bank vault for Flynn. By the way, that gaudy passer rating was earned on whopping 49 pass attempts. That’s right, the Seahawks gave a guy with 132 career passing attempts a three year $26 million contract. $10 million was guaranteed.

The Seahawks watched the field, not the contracts

Now that, friends, is an investment. Flynn was anointed. No way there’d even be a competition in camp, right? I think you’ve heard of the third round draft pick that wound up starting for Seattle that year, right? A lot of scouts said he was too short to be a pro quarterback. Heck, he even transferred to a new school for his senior season. How could he hack it in the NFL?

Turns out Russell Wilson was pretty good. That’s despite his rookie contract, four years for $2.99 million. Seattle didn’t care that the’d invested all that cash in Flynn to start. Flynn got nine pass attempts and was traded. Wilson led the Seahawks to 11 wins and made the Pro Bowl. So when you tell yourself that the Seahawks invested too much in Rashaad Penny to have Chris Carson start, think again. Make no mistake, Carson will have to fight to earn the starting job, because Penny will be doing exactly the same thing. So will Mike Davis and C.J. Prosise, for that matter. Rest assured, whoever gets the nod will earn it with their feet, not their wallet.