Over the last two seasons, Chris Carson has become the long-awaited backfield heir apparent the Seahawks have lacked since Marshawn Lynch began his decline from his peak, eventually temporarily retiring after the 2015 season.
The former Oklahoma State product turned in two strong seasons accumulating more than 2,300 rushing yards in that time span.
However, there are durability concerns and the age-old debate of giving running backs a big second contract. Is extending Carson worth the risk for Seattle?
Why Seattle Should Extend Carson
One of six running backs in Seahawks history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Carson has provided stability at the running back position that Seattle lacked for three seasons after Lynch initially walked away.
On the field, the 25-year old summons his inner Beast Mode, running through tackles and wearing defenses down with his physicality, traits the Seattle coaching staff covets in a running back. He finished fourth in the NFL in yards after contact in 2019, besting the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey. His 1,230 total rushing yards was good enough for fifth in the league.
Over the last two seasons, his 2,381 rushing yards is fifth among running backs. The Seahawks have been very pleased with his production over the last few seasons and view him as one of the best running backs in the league.
As a seventh round pick, Carson has carved out an impressive career thus far. Historically, his performance merits an extension in Seattle.
It took Seattle three seasons to find a running back of Carson's caliber and it would be difficult to start from square one with a new ball carrier if they were to let him walk.
Why Seattle Should Not Extend Carson
Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson are cautionary tales of handing out big money to previously successful running backs. Neither player has produced a 1,000-yard season since being paid big bucks and Johnson is now on a new team.
The growing belief among those who favor analytics is that the quality of the offensive line is more important to the run game than who is carrying the ball. Lynch might disagree with that sentiment, as he put together several Pro Bowl seasons behind shoddy offensive lines.
However, Seattle has a number of important players who will be up for extensions over the next few seasons and in more crucial positions. The Seahawks would hamstring themselves if they threw big money at Carson while sacrificing quality players along the offensive line or defensive backfield.
Carson himself does not come without concern. In two of his first three seasons in the league, he has finished on injured reserve with significant injuries. There is a big risk of signing him to a big contract and promptly getting hurt and dragging down the team with a big cap hit.
Seattle should be very wary of paying Carson upper market money for a running back. Certainly, he won’t feasibly merit Christian McCaffrey-type money, which is just over $16 million per year, the richest contract in running back history.
If Carson is asking for something resembling Melvin Gordon’s deal with Denver, about $8 million per year, Seattle should steer clear. The sweet spot for a deal may be Todd Gurley’s number with the Falcons, at $5.5 million per year.
Anything more than that and Seattle may look to the younger running backs on the roster or elsewhere for their new number one back starting in 2021.