Moore: Seahawks must add to running back depth in draft or free agency
Rightfully so, the Seahawks’ focus in free agency and the draft will be on edge rushers. The second priority figures to be the offensive line. Running back needs to be addressed, too – general manager John Schneider said as much at the combine – but how far down the list is it?
Maybe it should be higher on the list given the injury situation with the top two running backs, Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, and unrestricted free-agent status of C.J. Prosise, Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, all of whom are unlikely to return. That leaves second-year player Travis Homer as the only running back currently on the roster who can be considered truly healthy when training camp opens in July.
Carson is expected to be good to go for training camp after suffering a late-season hip injury, but there are several reasons why the Seahawks might want to look at replacing Carson or at least finding another back to reduce his carries and wear-and-tear from his violent running style.
• Penny, the second-string running back, will enter training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, coming off a torn ACL and other damage in his knee. Entering his third year, Penny might not be ready to go at the start of the 2020 season.
• Even if he rips off his third consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2020, Carson will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and the Seahawks may be in the market for another marquee running back if they don’t think that Penny or Homer can fill that role.
• Carson has finished two of his three seasons on injured reserve, further increasing the need to have a deeper stable of running backs.
• Carson also showed a tendency to fumble last year, and if that continues, the Seahawks might have to bench him even if he’s their most physically gifted running back.
Homer is talented but no doubt too small to be more than a complementary change-of-pace option. Would the Seahawks be so desperate that they’d think about re-signing Prosise or Lynch? If so, I’d vote for Prosise over Lynch as crazy as that might sound. Maybe you disagree, but Prosise would at least offer some upside, if healthy, and Lynch is clearly past the twilight of his remarkable career. But I hear you, that’s the biggest IF in history, regarding Prosise given his many injuries in four years with the Seahawks.
There are better options in free agency and the draft. I’d rate Kenyan Drake of Arizona as the best option overall, but he’s said to be looking for $8 million to $10 million in free agency, and that figures to be too much for the Seahawks, especially when they’re expecting Carson to be their No. 1 back again.
Other free-agent options that could be stop-gap or long-term solutions include Carlos Hyde of Houston, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year but will be 30 when the 2020 season begins; Matt Breida of San Francisco, who started the 2019 season as the starter and finished it as the third-stringer behind Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman; and Jordan Howard of Philadelphia, who lost his starting job to Miles Sanders.
All of those options are affordable – in 2019, Hyde made $2.8 million, Howard $2 million and Breida $645,000.
In the draft, no one expects the Seahawks to take a running back with their first-round pick at No. 27 overall. It hasn’t worked out when they have in the past – again, it’s still a wait-and-see with Penny, who was their first-round choice two years ago, and in 2013, when they didn’t have a first-round pick, the Seahawks made Christine Michael their first selection in the second round. Michael washed out of the NFL and is now playing for St. Louis in the XFL.
But the Seahawks are also known for doing the unexpected in the draft, so you can’t rule anything out. They’re also known for trading down with their first-round pick and getting extra selections. This is a year where they could drop to No. 30 or No. 32, pick up extra lower-round draft choices and still end up with the best or second-best running back in the draft.
Some mock drafts I looked at don’t even have a running back going in the first round. In others, D’Andre Swift of Georgia appears at the end of the first round, right where the Seahawks are picking. And even if Swift is not available, would the Seahawks be intrigued by J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State, Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU or Zack Moss of Utah?
According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor picked up nearly 4,000 yards after contact in three years, which makes him a good fit with the Seahawks. Known as a punishing runner, Moss is too.
One or two or maybe even three of these running backs could be available on the second day of the draft, which is right in the Seahawks’ wheelhouse because they have one pick in the second round and two in the third.
Another option I’d take a look at is J.D. McKissic, the former Seahawk who played in Detroit last year. He’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Lions would have the chance to match another team’s offer, but I’d make a run at him anyway.