While Seattle’s top brass are understandably preoccupied with trying to quell the fires that have sprouted up from the Russell Wilson trade rumors, they also have other big questions to answer this offseason. Mainly, multiple players from last year’s roster are set to become free agents, and Seattle only has a little over $7 million in cap space to try and resign them. Some are obvious players to let go of, but others will require some hard decisions. KJ Wright was one we discussed a couple of weeks ago; another is Chris Carson, who we will discuss today.
On the face of it, Carson seems exactly like the type of player you would want to keep around to bolster a high-powered offense. He’s explosive and powerful, coming off a season where he averaged 4.8 yards-per-attempt. He’s got good hands, hauling in 37 receptions out of the backfield as well as four touchdowns that came through the air. He’s also improved his fumbling problem to the point where it was pretty much a non-factor this past season, only giving away the ball once all season. The problem, though, is that he’s not around enough for that type of impact to contribute to the Seahawks on a game-to-game basis regularly. He’s missed 22 games over the course of his career, including the playoffs. The best ability is availability, and Carson’s lack of consistency in this area is enough of a concern to poke a huge hole in his value. He’s in a position that is getting paid at a decreasing rate every season.
Therein lies the rub; Carson probably sees himself as a top back in this league based on his per carry numbers and his multiple 1,000-yard seasons he has in his back pocket. Advanced stats back that assertion up, as Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 16th best player at his position. Seattle may not be so inclined to agree, as they can never truly know that he will be on the field at 100% effectiveness. This will truly be a negotiation in every sense of the word.
Carson is also dealing with the fact that he truly has one shot at life-altering money. As a seventh-round pick, Carson has only been making $616,282 per season. Not bad in the grand scheme of things but a pittance compared to his peers. He is also 26 and will turn 27 during next season, meaning that whatever deal he signs will most likely take him past 30 – widely seen as the benchmark where running backs experience deep declines in their game. Taking this into account, he’ll most likely want a deal in the eight-figure range, something approximating the 4-year, $48 million deal Joe Mixon signed last offseason.
It’s tough to imagine Seattle giving him that, especially considering they are dealing with a very unhappy QB who wants resources poured into pass protection because he wants the ball in his hands. Considering that they chose not to franchise tag him, I can’t see the Seahawks offering more than eight-million guaranteed per season on a longer-term deal. Something in the three-year, $30 million with $24 million guaranteed range seems much more likely. Whether or not he takes a deal like that depends on how the rest of the market views him. NFL.com has him as the second-best available back in free agency. All it takes is one team to view him as a valuable piece to pry him away from the Seahawks and leave them scrambling to replace his production.