BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 09/02/2020

Thiel: Carson has NFL respect, and 2 asterisks

RB Chris Carson has earned the respect of his NFL peers. But whether he earns a second contract from Seahawks depends on whether he stays healthy and stops fumbling.

RB Chris Carson stared up at the Clink’s video replay screen after a fumble. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

For the first time in his three pro years, RB Chris Carson made the annual Top 100 players list. The rankings are a bit of fluff put out by NFL.com to hype the coming season, and even though no cash is involved, it’s a talker among players as well as fans, particularly since the voters are the players.

Typically a humble, deferential sort — a seventh-round draft pick, you know — Carson, while appreciative, felt his ranking at 96 sold him short.

“I feel like, personally, that spot’s not low enough for me,” he said on a Zoom conference Monday. “I could be a lot lower on that list. But it’s a blessing, just being a part of that. Overall, I’m happy about it.”

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounded more like a harrumph than a hallelujah.

Or maybe it’s the start of a campaign for a new contract.

He’s entering the fourth and final year of an NFL-modest deal ($2.1 million) far beneath his contribution — he rushed for 1,252 yards, fifth in the NFL, and had 37 receptions for 266 yards, in 15 games.

Asked whether the Seahawks have begun discussions for an extension, Carson said, “Not really, no.”

Well, there’s time. Presuming a normal calendar, free agency doesn’t begin until March. Of course, these days, the world might change six times by then. But on the very day Carson spoke came news that fellow 2017 running-back draftee (second round) Joe Mixon scored a four-year, $48 million extension from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Going back to the Top 100 list, the player behind Carson, former Washington Huskies star Budda Baker, recently was made the highest-paid safety in the NFL by Arizona (four years, $59 million). The player just ahead of him, former Seahawks DE Frank Clark, was given a year ago a five-year, $104 million deal by the Kansas City Chiefs, whom he helped win the Super Bowl in February.

The relationship between the top-100-list and contract value, is, of course, arbitrary because of service time. But Baker, Clark and Mixon demonstrate the company in which Carson now travels.

Whether the Seahawks can or should pay him commensurate with those talents awaits the results of this season, because Carson still has two things to settle.

The two points have nothing to do with his tackle-breaking earnestness: He has to stay healthy and stop fumbling.

Carson has had incompletes due to injury in all three seasons. In December, a hip injury shut him down before the playoffs. It didn’t require surgery, and if his movements in Sunday’s mock game were a fair barometer (they weren’t; no tackling to the ground), he appears ready. This despite time off in August to deal with two deaths in his family, which he politely declined to speak about.

“He looked great today,” said coach Pete Carroll. “He was flying around, looking really light on his feet. He’s got fresh legs.

“We don’t have any hesitation with Chris at all. He’s fine, ready to go.”

Career-damaging injuries are standard fixtures for NFL running backs.  As a run-dependent team, the Seahawks have loaded up against a Carson debilitation by expending draft choices on Rashaad Penny (first, 2018), Travis Homer (sixth, 2019) and DeeJay Dallas (fourth, 2020).

But aside from maintaining premium fitness, there’s nothing Carson can do about the annual poundings.

“I can’t really think about injuries when I’m out there,” he said. “I just play. My mind-set is going to be the same this year as it was last year. That’s just who I am, I guess.”

What he hopes he can address is fumbling. According to Football Database in 2019, he had seven fumbles and lost four, both highs for running backs. If you have been following Carroll, you know that he would rather eat gravel than witness a Seahawks turnover.

“As far as the fumbling, that was something that played a big part last year,” Carson said, “something I worked on in the off-season. You got to have a quick mindset, let that go and just move on and learn.”

True, but Carroll never forgets. And he rarely gives a second contract to a running back, Marshawn Lynch being the one exception.

For public consumption, Carson professed little concern, although he allowed as to how his phone “blew up” with text messages from friends talking up what the Mixon contract might mean for his future.

“Of course, it’s something that’s on my mind,” he said. “You see a lot of guys, they’re starting to get paid, but I try not to let it distract me from the season. I try to push it away.”

He may be a top-100 guy, but Carson is in no position to ask for a new deal now. It would, however, please fans and even Carroll if Carson began the New Year with a big ol’ pile of leverage.

 


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YourThoughts

  • tor5

    I have no idea how to assess his value, but there were so many plays the last few seasons where he was stunning. Shades of Lynch. Your asterisks are fair, Art, but I don’t think he’s easily replaced.

    • art thiel

      There were Beastian flashes throughout 2019. He’s great after first contact. But the style takes a huge toll.

  • Tman

    Seahawks receiving corp, Air Coryell on steroids, should make life much easier for Carson. O line do your thing!
    The superbowl awaits.

    • art thiel

      I’m not ready to go there with WRs, not when they add Paul Richardson at this time to be the No. 3,

      • Chris Alexander

        I see Richardson and Dorsett as sort of “sharing” the WR3 role – a 3a and a 3b, as it were. Having 2 players with such similar profiles gives the team the ability to have one run a deep route, circle over to the sideline afterwards, and have the other one rotate in and run a deep route on the very next play. Whoever is covering the 2 of them will be gassed very quickly and a little bit of separation is all either of them (and Russ) will need.

        • art thiel

          Seems plausible. Dorsett’s foot problem is chronic over years. Not sure how that got by the braintrust.

      • Tman

        What happened to Dorsett? Will Josh Gordon become eligible?

  • Chris Alexander

    I think Carson is well worth the contract Mixon just signed and believe he will probably get it – or something close to it – assuming he stays healthy and holds onto the ball. However, I see almost no scenario where he gets a contract like that from Seattle.

    • art thiel

      It’s a fact of NFL life that good RBs can be found in every draft. It’s the game’s most fungible position.

      • Husky73

        Bishop Sankey, Myles Gaskin…..

        • art thiel

          It’s true. All good college backs, but there’s only 32 starting RBs a year, and maybe 200 legit applicants.

  • Brent Hannon

    I wonder if fumbles are more random than most people assume? more a result of bad luck than anything else? That is, aside from a few runners who are careless with the ball, or carry it wrong. But I don’t think Carson is one of those. (Metcalf, maybe, but not Carson.)

    • art thiel

      I do believe randomness is a greater part of life, and football, than most people care to admit. We always think there’s a reason, and an answer. No.

      Having said that, the Seahawks’ high number of fumble recoveries was part of the straight-up luck that allowed them to win 10 games by one score or less in 2019.

      • tor5

        I agree with your philosophical point about life and randomness, but I bet Coach Pete would point out that the Hawks practice “luck” when it comes to turnovers (avoiding, causing, and recovering). And, generally, the Hawks are so lucky so often, I don’t buy that’s it’s entirely random. I’ll call it magic… neither lucky nor random.

        • art thiel

          He does practice the turnover arts, but a ball with two pointy ends responds only to physics that are unpredictable.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Here’s to Carson keeping his head about him through this year and through getting a new deal. Focus Chris, FOCUS on the field! Everything good can come from that

    • art thiel

      He understands. The career depends on it.

  • jafabian

    If Penny didn’t get injured last season I wonder if the Hawks would let Carson walk? As it stands they might have no choice despite the depth they acquired in the offseason as Carson is far and away the cream of the crop in their stable of RB’s. Penny probably won’t be in top form until next season if you look at when Curt Warner came back from a similar injury. Which is too bad because before his injury he was heading into Shaun Alexander territory.

    • Husky73

      Penny seems to be forgotten. I assume his status is no-go for 2020?

      • jafabian

        Last I knew he wasn’t expected until mid-season but that was announced at the end of last season. His progress hasn’t been reported. I really don’t think he’ll be back at the level he was until next season but because of his age I’m confident he will.

  • wabubba67

    Enjoy Carson as a Seahawk while you can. Assuming he is healthy at the end of this season and the RB market doesn’t dry up financially, there is no way Seattle signs him to another deal.

    A shame. He’s one of my all-time favorite Seahawk RBs, but no RB is worth $12 million/year in today’s NFL.

  • Husky73

    There’s a good running back languishing in Miami.

  • Seattle Psycho

    No way he gets a contract from the Hawks (IMO). With the cap likely to be stagnant or reduced next year there are too many others who will be a higher priority. As you say in the story Art, Baker just became the highest paid safety in football. Well, Adams sees that and after giving up two 1st rounders for him, the Hawks kind of put themselves in a “must pay” situation.