Can Seahawks pay enough to re-sign Chris Carson? Spotrac’s Michael Ginnitti expects them to
The Seahawks have 24 players hitting unrestricted free agency, and perhaps the biggest wild card of that group is running back Chris Carson.
Carson, 26, is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who has emerged as a true No. 1 back in the NFL despite being a seventh-round pick in 2017. Now, Carson has a chance at a major NFL payday as he’s a free agent for the first time. But what Carson’s market will be is unclear and varies depending on who you talk to.
Carson’s talent is undeniable as he’s a bruising back who can catch the football and run through defenders, but there’s concerns about his durability as he’s never played a full season and has suffered season-ending injuries in two of his four NFL seasons. In 2020, he missed four games with a foot injury.
Someone who has a good grasp of NFL salaries and player contracts is Michael Ginnitti, who founded the website Spotrac, which helps keep track of player contracts and team spending across major sports including the NFL. Spotrac also gives approximate values for players, and Carson’s value per the site is a one-year deal worth $10 million.
Ginnitti joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob this week and discussed how he sees Carson’s offseason playing out. First off, he thinks Carson ultimately will get a deal different than that one-year, $10 million estimate.
“What the math says is what’s actually different from what I think is going to happen with Chris Carson,” he said. “Look. this running back market is weird because there’s good players about to hit the market (and the salary cap is going down from 2020) … If I say it’s (a one-year, $10 million deal) for Chris Carson, I’m probably saying it’s one-year deals for like 60% of the free agents this offseason. It’s just how things are going to work. It’s a weird year.”
Due to reduced revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the salary cap is going down from $198 million and will likely be closer to $185 million. The cap is expected to go back up for 2022, however, which Ginnitti said complicates this upcoming free agency period.
“Agents aren’t going to want to break the bank in a down cap year when they know that the TV money is going to push the cap back up next year,” he said. “So I think it’s going to be a slow play for a lot of these free agents.”
An issue for Carson is that the running back position has been devalued in recent years as teams are less willing to pay big money at the position after players’ rookie contracts are up because of the wear and tear they endure. In Carson’s case, those concerns may be justified as he’s missed time in all four of his NFL seasons. Ginnitti thinks Carson should sign for a longer payday if the opportunity presents itself, whereas players at other positions may be better off taking a one-year deal this offseason.
“Realistically speaking, the running backs don’t have time to slow play their next contract. So if Chris Carson gets an offer that’s multi-year and has two years of guarantees, he’s going to have to take it,” he said.
Ginnitti’s site may value Carson at $10 million for one year, but Ginnitti wrote an article where he predicted Carson will return to the Seahawks on a four-year deal worth up to $30 million with roughly half of that money guaranteed.
“It’s a little bit lower on the average annual (money) but I think he can get himself two years of guaranteed money,” he said. “So if I’m saying that’s $15 million over the next two seasons, and four for $30 million as a whole, I think that’s about right for the type of player Chris Carson can be when he’s healthy and (with) the current market we’re in right now.”
Ginnitti said Carson has shown he can play like a running back worth $12 million-plus but his injury history hurts his overall value. He still has more value to teams than other veteran backs on the open market.
“He’s just too versatile to think he’s going to be down in that $3-4 million range where a lot of these veteran running backs are going,” Ginnitti said. “I just think there’s a team out there that can pay him like this and if we believe what Seattle’s saying, which is that they’re going to turn back to this running game like they continue to say out loud, then why not Chris Carson on basically half of a superstar contract? It’s half of (Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s) money.”
Listen to Wyman and Bob’s full discussion with Ginnitti in the podcast at this link or in the player below.