Which running backs could the Seahawks target in free agency?

Jan 24, 2021, 1:18 PM
Seahawks RB target Leonard Fournette...
Leonard Fournette had a strong season for Tampa Bay after being let go by the Jaguars. (Getty)

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the 2020 season ended that he wants his team to run the ball more in hopes of having a more balanced offense in 2021.

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After finishing in the top five in rushing offense in 2018 and 2019, the Seahawks were 12th in rushing yards and 18th in rushing attempts per game in 2020. And even though Carroll may want to run more in 2021, it’s not clear who would get the bulk of that work.

Currently the Seahawks have three running backs on the roster in 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny, 2020 rookie DeeJay Dallas and third-year back Travis Homer. The team’s two leading rushers from 2020 – Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde – are both heading into unrestricted free agency.

Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus is someone who wants the Seahawks to bring Carson back for 2021, but he also knows that the team may be unable to keep him. Whether or not Carson is back, Bumpus thinks Seattle must add to the running back room in free agency.

If the Seahawks decide to sign a free-agent running back, Bumpus has a few in mind he’d like to come to Seattle. He recently shared those names on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant.

Leonard Fournette

Fournette, 26, was still playing ball Sunday as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached the NFC Championship.

The 2017 No. 4 overall pick was a surprise release last offseason by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he signed on with Tampa Bay, serving as the team’s No. 2 back.

The two-time 1,000-yard rusher had 367 rushing yards and six touchdowns as well as 36 catches for 233 yards in 13 regular season games in 2020.

Bumpus said he’s a big fan of how Fournette runs the football.

“You’re going to look at his stats and say ‘He only has 300-something yards.’ That’s fine. He has six touchdowns, they used him in the red zone, he’s a threat,” Bumpus said.

Mark Ingram

Ingram, 31, was released by the Baltimore Ravens last week after two seasons with the team. Before that he had an eight-year run with the New Orleans Saints.

The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner ran for over 1,000 yards twice with the Saints, and did so again with the Ravens as the team’s lead back in 2019 before taking on more of a reserve role in 2020. With young running backs like rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards getting more and more touches, Ingram became less of a focal point, appearing in just 11 games, rushing for 299 yards with two touchdowns.

Bumpus said he likes Ingram as a backup to whoever is the lead back.

“He can’t be your No. 1 guy. He has to be your No. 2 or No. 3 guy,” he said. “If you bring Carson back, I like him as well.”

Aaron Jones

Jones, 26, may not hit the free-agent market as the Green Bay Packers will do whatever they can to keep him, such as reportedly offering him top-five running back money, but Bumpus would love to see what Jones can do for the Seahawks.

“A dream of mine is Aaron Jones, but that’s never going to happen,” he said. “Green Bay is never going to let that guy go and they shouldn’t let him go. He’s going to ask for top dollar, as he should. He’s a baller.”

Jones has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons and caught 47 passes for 355 yards and two scores in 2020 after catching 49 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. He also has 27 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons.

No true No. 1 in the class

Unless the Seahawks retain Carson or Jones slips away from the Packers, there really isn’t a true lead back in this free agent running back class, Bumpus said.

“There’s no one who you can insert and just say ‘He’s the starter, he’s the guy, he’s ready to go’ besides Aaron Jones,” he said. “Everyone else, it’s a committee-type thing.”

That could lead to the Seahawks employing a committee at running back with Penny, Homer, Dallas and maybe one other signing, which Bumpus said could work with who Seattle currently has.

A running back by committee approach has rarely been done under Pete Carroll as Marshawn Lynch and Chris Carson have been the starting backs for nine of Carroll’s 11 years in Seattle.

“I think the Hawks have got three running backs who are good if they are healthy, and that’s been the question mark,” Bumpus said. “… If they want to go with those guys, I’m good with it, but there are a bunch of running backs who can be (second- and third-string players).”

Listen to the discussion at this link or in the player below.

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Which running backs could the Seahawks target in free agency?