Seahawks 2021 Free Agent Primer: Chris Carson

After back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons, injuries and a diminished carry load ultimately led to pedestrian numbers from Carson in 2020. Still, with the Seahawks expected to get back to ground-and-pound football, could the team open up the checkbook to keep the backfield battering ram?
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Following an early Wild Card round exit, the Seahawks have officially transitioned into an offseason that could be one of the most significant of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era.

When the new 2021 league year kicks off in March, Seattle will have a whopping 24 players set to become unrestricted free agents. Four players will be restricted free agents, while six will be exclusive rights free agents and several others will be entering the final year of their current contracts ready to negotiate extensions, including safety Jamal Adams.

Over the next several weeks, I will break down each and every one of the Seahawks' unrestricted free agents by revisiting their 2020 seasons, assessing why they should or should not be re-signed, breaking down an ideal contract, and making an early prediction on whether or not the player will return in 2021.

Up next in the series, Seattle wants to run the ball more and more effectively in 2021. Will Chris Carson return to help fulfill those objectives?

Season In Review

Though his overall production dropped substantially due to injuries and a diminished workload impacted by the Seahawks leaning more heavily on the passing game, Carson still ran with reckless abandon between the tackles and made the most of his opportunities while only fumbling one time all season. Though limited to 681 rushing yards on just 141 carries in 12 starts, he averaged a career-best 4.8 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns on the ground. Where Carson arguably made his greatest impact was as a receiver, finishing third on the team with 37 receptions and catching a career-high four touchdowns out of the backfield. He also made several notable blocks in pass protection in key situations during the season.

Why Seattle Should Re-Sign Him

While Seattle's offense revolves around Wilson under center, Carson remains an integral part of the team's identity due to his battering running style and propensity for racking up big yardage after contact. When he missed four games in the middle of the season with a sprained foot, the Seahawks went 2-2 and while they averaged 4.4 yards per carry as a team, the statistic is misleading because Wilson rushed for 130 yards and averaged five yards per carry in those games. Aside from Carlos Hyde's stellar outing against the Cardinals, they couldn't run the football effectively in his absence and opponents were able to blitz more aggressively against Wilson as a result. Add in Carson's quality hands as a receiver and losing him would be a significant loss for the team to try to replace.

Why Seattle Should Let Him Walk

As demonstrated by LeVeon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, and others over the past five years, giving a running back an expensive second contract can blow up in a franchise's face. There are exceptions such as Derrick Henry, of course, but the position has a short shelf life to begin with and that's especially true for players such as Carson who have struggled with durability. Along with missing most of his rookie season with a broken ankle, he landed on injured reserve with a cracked hip to close out the 2019 season and battled injuries throughout the 2020 season. While he's a fantastic talent when healthy and has two 1,000-yard seasons under hi, he hasn't proven he can stay on the field and investing big bucks into him on a multi-year contract would have a strong chance of backfiring for that reason alone.

Ideal Contract

2 years at $7-8 million per year

Prediction

This may be the toughest call to make when assessing what direction the Seahawks will go with their respective free agents. On one hand, the organization holds Carson in high regard and his bruising running style coupled with quality vision fits exactly what coach Pete Carroll wants in the backfield. He's highly respected in the locker room as well. But on the other hand, given the team's current financial limitations and the back's inability to stay healthy, they might not be willing to approach what Carson's camp would deem market value. But when it's all said and done, I don't expect the free agent market to be very kind to running backs in March due to the league-wide salary cap crunch and once the dust settles, Carson will return to the Seahawks on a two-year deal worth $16 million.

Seahawks Free Agent Primers

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Shaquill Griffin

Mike Iupati

Benson Mayowa