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Seahawks RB Leonard Fournette
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Bumpus: If Seahawks can’t keep Carson, Fournette should be the target

Leonard Fournette could be the Seahawks' replacement for Chris Carson in 2021. (Getty)

The Seahawks have a key starter hitting free agency in running back Chris Carson, and while Seattle would love if Carson returned for at least one more season, there’s a very real likelihood we’ll see Carson in another uniform in 2021.

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The Seahawks drafted Carson, 26, in the seventh round of the 2017 draft and he took over as the team’s No. 1 back in 2018 and rushed for 1,000 yards two years in a row. He was also finished third on the Seahawks in receiving in 2020 and had 968 total yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games.

Head coach Pete Carroll has made it no secret that he loves the way Carson runs the football and what he brings to the offense. He also told reporters after the season that he wants to run the ball more often and more effectively in 2021. Having a proven back like Carson carrying the load would certainly help in both regards.

Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus also wants to see Carson back in a Seahawks uniform next year, but if Carson walks, Bumpus knows who he wants Seattle to target this offseason.

“I think you do everything you can to bring Chris Carson back. He is huge for what this team wants to do,” Bumpus told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. “Even though Shane Waldron is here (as the new offensive coordinator) and you’re going to mix up the pass game and all this stuff, you still need a solid running back. You do what you can to keep Chris Carson.”

Bumpus said that he feels Carson may price himself out of Seattle and that a contending team like the Buffalo Bills could sway him to leave the Pacific Northwest. That’s when Bumpus’ backup plan comes in to play.

“So now what do you do if you don’t have Chris Carson? You still have Rashaad Penny back there, you still have (DeeJay Dallas). I think you go after Leonard Fournette,” Bumpus said. “I think Leonard Fournette is feeling some type of way in Tampa Bay, he’s valued around $8 or $9 million, and that’s the style of running back that the Hawks need.”

Fournette, 26, was, like Carson, a 2017 draft. But while Carson had to wait until the seventh and final round to hear his name called, Fournette was the fourth overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fournette also has two 1,000-yard campaigns to his name and has a  pedigree that Carroll likes in that he was a top recruit out of high school before starring at LSU in college.

Fournette was released by the Jaguars before the season started and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he rushed for 367 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games in 2020 while also accumulating 233 receiving yards. But it was in the playoffs where he shined.

In four playoff games, Fournette rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 148 yards and a score, playing a big part in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl run.

“He showed that ‘look, I can still be a No. 1 running back,'” Bumpus said. “And I just like his style. He gets downhill, he can catch the football as well … If you can’t keep Chris Carson – you need to keep Chris Carson – but if you cannot, I think you go after Leonard Fournette. I like his style, he can catch the rock, he’s a tough guy, a north-south-type runner.”

Carroll has shown an affinity for bruising running backs during his time in Seattle, with Carson and Marshawn Lynch being the two best backs he’s had with the Seahawks, and Fournette fits that mold as well. Fournette stands 6-foot-0 and weighs around 230 pounds, but has good speed for his size, running a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

“When I think of a Seahawks running back regardless of who the offensive coordinator is, I think of someone who is going to lower the shoulder pad  and run through some dudes, and I think Fournette can do that if he stays healthy,” Bumpus said.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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