Extending Seahawks Chris Carson: Pros, cons and a potential contract

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 27: Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes in the first half of an NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 27: Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes in the first half of an NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Lets examine the current market, the 2021 free agency class and what I believe the Seahawks would be willing to offer.

The running back position is a difficult market to analyze. First, the lifespan of a starting NFL running back is relatively short. Second, very few players end up being extended by their original team. Third, the market values are all over the board.

Two of the more productive players last year are Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. McCaffrey is just 23 years old and eclipsed 1,300 running yards and 1,000 receiving yards for a grand total of 19 touchdowns. He is the most complete running back in the league, and it’s not really all the close.

Meanwhile, Ekeler is just 24 years old and is coming off a career year with 1,500 total yards, 11 touchdowns, and a crazy drop percentage of only .9% on 92 targets. He accomplished all this while in a timeshare with Melvin Gordon. If you were to ask which player is better, its unquestionable that the answer is McCaffrey. However, is McCaffrey so much better that he should make $10 million more a year?

That is exactly what happened this off-season with McCaffrey signing a 4-year contract worth $16 million per year. Meanwhile, Ekeler signed for a 4-year deal worth just $6 million per year. If you asked which contract teams would rather have for the player, most would say Ekeler. Most teams would rather have a cost-effective, low key star, than pay big for a superstar that may fizzle out halfway through the contract. This is especially true after players like Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley and David Johnson faded after getting superstar money.

This is how I expect the Seahawks to play this: If Carson comes into this expecting to be paid $10+ per year and won’t budge on the asking price, Seattle will likely help him pack. However, if he comes to play ball and wants to be in Seattle for Austin Ekeler ($6 million) to Melvin Gordon money ($8 million per year), a deal could likely be struck.

After all, next year’s 2021 free-agent pool is incredibly talented and Carson has the potential to fly under the radar due to the “injury-prone” tag. A few of the 2021 free agents running backs that will be hitting the market:

  • Joe Mixon (25), Bengals
  • Marlon Mack (25), Colts
  • Leonard Fournette (26), Jaguars
  • Davin Cook (26), Vikings
  • Alvin Kamara (26), Kamara
  • Kareem Hunt (26), Browns
  • James Conner (26), Steelers
  • Aaron Jones (26), Packers
  • Derrick Henry (27), Titans
  • Kenyan Drake (27), Cardinals
  • Phillip Lindsey (27), Broncos

This star-studded group has the possibility to do one of two things to Carson’s market. Either he will end up with a phenomenal and healthy 2020 season and will become a headliner of the group alongside Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Alvin Kamara. Or, he will succumb to another injury and fly under the radar.

The best contract I think the Seahawks would be willing to offer, at this point:

Terms: 3 years, $21 million

Avg Salary: $7 million

Guaranteed: $8 million

Cap hits by season:

  • 2021: $5.5 million
  • 2022: $7.5 million
  • 2023: $8 million

Seattle could front-load his guarantees for 2021 and 2022. This would allow for an out after year 2. In other words, this would make the 2023 season a team option. This contract would give Carson top 10 running back money in today’s market while protecting the Seahawks future cap space. This sum is likely less than Carson will initially ask for. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he commands $10 million per year. I simply think it’s unlikely that Seattle would be the place to pay him if that were to happen.

One final note

Carson is one of my favorite players on the Seahawks roster. I simply love to watch him play. He has that dog in him, he punishes opposing defenses with tenacity, grit and explosiveness. Sure, he has battled injuries. However, each time he has come back a better player: faster, stronger and meaner.

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If you asked me, I would pay Carson hands down. I stand on the sideline that running backs matter. This is especially true for the run-heavy Seahawks. Carson simply embodies the smash-mouth style of play that the Seahawks are known for. I am a stats guy, I know the stats on slide 2 are daunting. However, I am more than comfortable rolling the dice on a 2-3 year deal for the human bulldozer that is Chris Carson.