Seahawks 2021 Offseason Position Preview: Running Back

For a team that wants to run the football effectively next season, the timing couldn’t be any worse for the Seahawks. Faced with the potential loss of their two top running back options in 2020 and limited salary cap space, Seattle’s backfield may be one of their biggest question marks entering the offseason.
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In today’s offseason position preview, we’ll be taking a look at a Seahawks running back group that could undergo some big changes over the coming months. With their two top backs from 2020, Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, set to hit free agency this March, Seattle may have to get creative in a year in which coach Pete Carroll has stated a desire to emphasize the ground game.

What We Know

While Carroll has expressed interest in re-signing Carson, it feels fairly likely the salary cap-limited Seahawks will be priced out for their 2017 seventh-round selection. Carson’s injury history and the overall reputation of running backs in today’s NFL could potentially drive his market down to the point where he’s a more realistic option for Seattle, but it’s far from a guarantee.

The team currently has Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and Patrick Carr under contract for 2021. Of the four, Penny is the clear-cut option to be the lead back, though he only saw 11 carries for 34 yards in his return from a torn ACL this past season. Homer has earned praise for his pass protection and has shown flashes in the run game, though he’s struggled with higher volumes of action. Dallas is coming off an up-and-down rookie season that saw him contribute when he played, but those opportunities came too few and far between. His season was ultimately cut short by a grade 3 ankle sprain suffered in a week 15 matchup versus Washington. Lastly, Carr is a 2020 undrafted free agent who spent the entire regular season on injured reserve. 

Not to say they can't have success in 2021, but that's not a very inspiring group for a team that wants to run the ball more efficiently next year.

What We Don’t Know

What exactly is the plan if Carson does head elsewhere in free agency? Reuniting with Hyde on another short-term deal would help, though he’s entering his age 31 season and is likely more of a change-of-pace runner rather than a lead back at this point in his career. Hyde averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2020, logging a total of 356 yards on the ground with four touchdowns in 10 games.

Additionally, is Penny ready to handle a significant increase in workload? As previously mentioned, the 2018 first-round selection out of San Diego State barely got into game action in 2020 and has only seen 10 or more carries in a game just five times with a career-high of 15 against the Vikings in 2019. It’d be a lot to ask of him to be their main option in the backfield in 2021, at least right out of the gate.

What to Expect

Whether it’s bringing Carson and/or Hyde back or making an outside addition, the Seahawks are clearly going to need to add at least one running back this offseason to add some stability to the group. Seattle hasn’t shied away from spending some money at the position in the past, but if they don’t end up paying for Carson, it’s hard to see them heavily invest in anyone else.

It would appear that all signs are pointing toward the team drafting a long-term solution this April. Barring an unexpected trade that would have them move up in the second round or back into the first, the Seahawks likely won’t have a chance to draft Clemson’s Travis Etienne or Alabama’s Najee Harris. However, there should be plenty of other interesting backs for them to look at throughout the process. Ohio State’s Trey Sermon, Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson, and Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. might be names to keep an eye on.

With more of a focus on the run game in 2021, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if the Seahawks look to add a traditional fullback this offseason as well. Pro Bowl selection Nick Bellore is listed at the position on the team’s official roster but only saw a little over three percent of their offensive snaps; he’s more of a full-time special teams player at this point. The last fullback they had that saw meaningful snaps was Tre Madden from 2017-18.

This will be a very interesting situation to keep tabs on over the course of the offseason. Depending on what happens with Carson, Seattle could have quite a bit of work cut out for them in the rushing department outside of the schematic changes that appear to be forthcoming. Even if Carson does return, it might be beneficial for them to still add more depth behind him, whether that be of the long or short-term variety. 

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