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Seahawks RB Chris Carson
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Seahawks free agents: Can Seattle retain productive RB Chris Carson?

Seahawks RB Chris Carson is hitting free agency for the first time in his career. (Getty)

Twenty-four Seahawks are set to become unrestricted free agents in March and to help fans make sense of who could come back and what kind of contracts players will be seeking, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy are previewing some of the biggest names over the next few weeks.

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New free agent previews premiere every weekday at 1 p.m. on Jake and Stacy. The show kicked things off with a look at running back Chris Carson.

The skinny: With Pete Carroll re-emphasizing his focus on incorporating an effective run game, you’d assume that means a focus on stocking up the running back room. But Carroll stopped short of committing to a long-term relationship with three-year starter Chris Carson. There’s been no shortage of compliments from Seattle’s head coach when it comes to Carson and his running style.

So, what gives? We’re guessing the two biggest things on the minds of decision makers in the Seahawks’ front office is Carson’s health history and the price tag he can command as one of the league’s most physically dominant downhill runners.

A 2017 seventh-round draft pick, Carson has been the most productive running back drafted under Carroll and John Schneider. In 2018, he became the first Seahawks running back to rush for 1,000 yards or more since Marshawn Lynch. He did it again in 2019, becoming the first Seahawks running back to rush for 1,000 yards or more in consecutive seasons since – you guessed it – Marshawn Lynch. He missed time with injury in 2020 and saw an overall drop in production with Seattle’s pass-heavy approach in the first half of the season, but he remains a top-three running back in free agency this year.

Jake’s take: “This is the biggest Seahawks free agent conversation that we will have. One of the things he does so well is run through tacklers and make it difficult on opposing defenses. But you talk about that injury history – when it comes to running backs, there’s an idea a second or third deal is a bad investment. There’s also the idea that running backs are easily replaceable. But for the Seahawks, that has not necessarily been the case. You, Stacy, have been a big proponent of looking at the Seahawks history and efforts to replace Marshawn Lynch. It hasn’t been good whatsoever. What the Seahawks have had in Lynch and Carson that they haven’t found with other running backs is the ability to create yards after contact. According to Pro Football Focus, in each of Carson’s seasons he’s gained at least three yards per carry after contact, topping that with his best season in 2019 at 3.63 yards on average after contact, which is fantastic. He broke 62 tackles in 2019. This past year he had a very good season. In terms of production, he’s a workhorse, he’s a guy who can carry the load and bring a physical element to this offense. Look at the first eight weeks of the season in 2020: Yes, Russell Wilson and the receiving corps were a huge part of what made that offense special and dynamic, but what made it truly difficult to stop was the fact that you had Chris Carson there … but (the Seahawks) were never able to sync that (run-pass balance) up successfully throughout the year, which caught up to them in the second half of the season. Carson is a guy I’d love to have back. I just don’t know if it’s realistic given their current cap situation. If there’s one aspect that makes me hopeful, it’s that he’s not regarded as a true receiving threat like Alvin Kamara or Aaron Jones. Chris Carson has yet to prove that. I think he’s a little bit underrated in the pass game … but because (of that) and the injury history, his price tag may not be as high as people were initially anticipating.”

The outlook: Spotrac projects a contract for Carson that looks something like four years, $29 million ($7.4 million per year). Pro Football Focus predicts Carson will sign with Buffalo on a three-year, $27 million deal.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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