Reported Interest in Giovani Bernard Suggests Seahawks in Market For Third Down Back

Seattle has drafted at least one running back in each of the past five drafts, including using day three selections in each of the past two years on DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer. But it appears the team may not be satisfied with third down options.
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During each of the past two drafts, the Seahawks have used day three selections in Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas, selecting them with sixth and fourth-round picks respectively. The team also re-signed Alex Collins to a one-year deal in February.

But despite these investments, the organization doesn't appear to be comfortable with current third down running back options on the roster behind starter Chris Carson.

According to a report from Jenna Laine of ESPN, Seattle was in the running to sign running back Giovani Bernard, who recently was released by Cincinnati. The veteran ball carrier ultimately signed with the Buccaneers, choosing to join forces with Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions instead of the Seahawks or 49ers.

While this may have simply been another case of the Seahawks living up to their "always compete" mantra, which has been a pillar of coach Pete Carroll's philosophy dating back to his time at USC, additional details suggest otherwise.

As Laine elaborated, Carroll and Russell Wilson were reportedly involved trying to recruit Bernard to the Pacific Northwest. This mutual recruiting effort coordinated by the head coach and star quarterback indicates Seattle badly wanted to add the dynamic pass-catching back as a complimentary weapon to Carson and Rashaad Penny in new coordinator Shane Waldron's offense.

Looking at Bernard's production in eight NFL seasons, it's easy to see why the Seahawks may have been enamored by the possibility of signing him. Though he hasn't rushed for more than 500 yards in a season since 2015 and hasn't been a threat at as a runner for half a decade, he has caught 342 receptions for 2,867 yards, which both rank third among running backs since 2013. He also has added 11 receiving touchdowns in his career.

Even in a reserve role behind Joe Mixon in the past four years, Bernard has caught 155 passes for 1,196 yards and five touchdowns, catching nearly 75 percent of his targets during that span.

Though Seattle's final push wasn't enough to persuade Bernard to sign, the obvious interest casts some doubt about how the organization feels about Dallas, Homer, and even Penny moving forward. If the front office and coaching staff were confident in this trio, what would be the point in spending limited remaining cap space on a 29-year old back who was recently cut by one of the worst teams in the league?

The fact of the matter is, however, while those three players have talent, none of them have emerged as a consistent contributor alongside Carson and each has dealt with durability issues since being drafted.

Since being picked No. 27 overall out of San Diego State in the 2018 NFL Draft, Penny has battled numerous injuries which have hindered his progress. Though he's shown brief flashes of his first-round ability as a runner and receiver, a torn ACL suffered towards the end of the 2019 season basically erased his 2020 campaign, as he played in a total of three games and rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries.

Dating back to his rookie year, albeit with limited opportunities, Penny has struggled in pass protection as well. Per Pro Football Focus, on 23 pass blocking attempts, he has allowed three pressures and a quarterback hit. Game film looks significantly worse than those numbers suggest, as he has had persistent issues with technique and missed blocking assignments.

As for Homer and Dallas, the two former Miami teammates have each earned spot starts with Carson and Penny dealing with injuries. Though Dallas scored a pair of touchdowns in a win over the 49ers last season, neither has been able to secure the third down role in part due to injuries of their own.

In his rookie season, Homer averaged north of six yards per carry with a limited workload, exhibiting quality burst out of the backfield. He also caught 11 passes and held his own in pass protection, suggesting he had the tools to be a long-term answer on third down. But after suffering a knee injury, Homer didn't play in Seattle's final seven games of the 2020 season, opening the door for Dallas, who impressed throughout his first training camp.

Unfortunately, while the rookie did show off his past receiver background by catching 17 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, Dallas averaged a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry as a runner and botched a handful of pass protection assignments. An ankle injury in Week 15 ultimately ended his season with 219 yards of total offense.

Penny just turned 25 in February and both Homer and Dallas will turn 23 during the first couple months of the 2021 season, so all three players are still very young with ample room to develop. With some improved injury fortunes, each could be a factor behind Carson.

Nonetheless, the Seahawks apparent interest in Bernard is an indictment on the running back room as a whole. The team clearly feels upgrades can still be made, which could make the position one to monitor closely over the next several weeks before and after the draft.