Rumblings have been out there for a while that the Seahawks might go after a veteran running back such as Devonta Freeman or Carlos Hyde to shore up depth at a spot that was hit hard by injuries in 2019 and where there remains some uncertainty over exactly when Rashaad Penny will return.
But in the most concrete signs that something could be coming soon, reports surfaced Wednesday stating that both Freeman and Hyde have been in recent contract talks with the Seahawks.
A report from Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday stated the Seahawks “have made an offer” to Freeman. That was followed later in the day by another report from Michael Silver of The NFL Network stating that the Seahawks have not only talked to Freeman but have also had conversations with Carlos Hyde.
Silver reported that Seattle has made an offer to Freeman of a one-year deal with a base value of $3 million that could be worth as much as $4 million with incentives but that Freeman also has offers from the Jets and Eagles (though the Jets may be out of the picture now that they have Frank Gore). Caplan had reported that Freeman wanted more than Seattle has offered and that for now the Seahawks are not budging.
That might indicate that nothing is yet overly close with Freeman.
Both reports, though, indicate the Seahawks are at least attempting to make a significant move to add a veteran running back, something the team has hinted for a while could happen.
Seattle has also been in contact with the agent for Marshawn Lynch, and it has been evident for a while that the Seahawks were likely to bring in another veteran at some point to bolster a running back corps that at the moment has just six players — Penny, Chris Carson, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Patrick Carr and Anthony Jones.
Of those, only three have appeared in an NFL game — Carson, Penny and Homer — and Penny is likely to start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered on Dec. 8 against the Rams in Los Angeles.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider said in an interview on KJR-AM 950 last month that “it’s going to be really hard” for Penny to be ready for the season given the timeline of the typical recovery for his injury.
And even before that coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Combine in February that Seattle would likely add some veterans to fill out the position as Penny and Carson recover saying “we have to make sure we have enough depth.”
That obviously became a huge issue for Seattle at the end of the 2019 season when the Seahawks saw basically their entire backfield go down due to injuries in December.
Penny’s likely absence at the start of the season would leave just Carson and Homer as running backs on the roster with any NFL experience, and Carson is also rehabbing from a hip injury suffered in a game Dec. 22 against Arizona. Carson is expected to be ready for the start of training camp but would likely see little, if any, action in the preseason.
Homer played significantly down the stretch as a rookie last season finishing with 114 yards on 18 carries, and Dallas was taken in the fourth round of the draft last month, each projecting to have spots on Seattle’s 53-man roster.
But keeping a fourth running back on the 53-man would seem likely and Seattle was known hoping to bring in another veteran to compete.
The only other two running backs on the roster, Carr and Jones, are each rookie undrafted free agents.
The 28-year-old Freeman was released in a cap-cutting move by the Falcons on March 16 in the wake of Atlanta’s decision to sign Todd Gurley after suffering through what was his worst statistical season in the NFL in 2019, when he gained 656 yards on 184 carries for a 3.6 yards-per-carry average. That was the lowest of his six seasons in the NFL, all of which have been with Atlanta.
That came after a 2018 season when Freeman was held to just two games due to knee, foot and groin injuries, eventually undergoing season-ending core muscle surgery.
Freeman, though, has always been a productive receiver, catching 59 passes for 410 yards last season with a career-high 73 for 578 in 2015. Freeman entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick by Atlanta out of Florida State in 2014.
Seattle could look to Freeman as backup depth to Carson as well as serving as a third-down/two-minute back.
In the wake of Atlanta’s run to the Super Bowl in 2016, when he rushed for 1,079 yards and made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, Freeman signed a five-year contract worth more than $41 million in 2017 that made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL at the time, a deal that included a $15 million signing bonus.
He had three years and $21 million remaining on his contract when he was released in a move that saved Atlanta $3.5 million against the cap, though the Falcons also incurred a $6 million dead cap hit for the 2020 season.
Hyde, meanwhile, became an unrestricted free agent in March when he turned down an offer of a new deal from Houston.
The 29-year-old Hyde rushed for a career-high 1,040 yards last season for the Texans in playing all 16 games He spent 2018 with Cleveland and Jacksonville after beginning his career with the 49ers in 2014 as a second-round pick out of Ohio State and then playing four seasons for San Francisco.
Hyde has also at times been used significantly as a receiver, including catching a career-high 59 passes for 350 yards with the 49ers in 2017. Hyde made $2.8 million on a one-year deal with Houston in 2019.
Lynch broke the news himself in an interview on ESPN earlier this month that his agent, Doug Hendrickson, had also had talks with the Seahawks, which coach Pete Carroll later confirmed in an interview on the NFL Network.
Signing Freeman or Hyde wouldn’t necessarily preclude Seattle bringing Lynch back at some point. But the Seahawks probably wouldn’t have both Lynch and one of the others on the roster to begin training camp, with Lynch being a player Seattle knows it could likely call on whenever needed, as was essentially the case last season when he was signed before the final regular season game in the wake of the season-ending injuries to Penny and Carson as well as C.J. Prosise (who is a free agent and has yet to sign with anyone, with Silver reporting not to rule out that Prosise could still be re-signed, which would undoubtedly be at one-year, minimum-value deal).
The Seahawks have $16.1 million in cap space and some wiggle room to make a few transactions, though that total does not include bonuses for any of the eight draft picks, none of whom have officially yet signed their contracts (all draft picks get four-year deals at total values assigned based on their draft slot).
Seattle is likely to want to sign any veteran running back to a one-year contract. But the report of offering up to $4 million to Freeman indicates the Seahawks are least willing to spend a little money to assure their depth at the running back spot. It’s thought Hyde would likely be able to be signed for a lower salary.
Seahawks officially sign Geno Smith
Seattle waived tight end Justin Johnson to make room for Smith on the 90-man roster.
Smith will compete with undrafted rookie free agent Anthony Gordon of Washington State for the backup job behind Russell Wilson, though the Seahawks will likely hope that they can use the practice squad (which this year is increased to 12) as a way to keep all three around on the roster in some manner for the 2020 season.
Smith, a second-round pick of the Jets in 2013, was Seattle’s backup last year after signing in May and then beating out Paxton Lynch in the preseason to earn the number two spot.
Smith did not play in a game for the Seahawks, though, as Wilson took every snap for the second straight season.
Johnson, out of Mississippi State, spent all of last year on Injured Reserve. He was waived with a designation that he failed his physical. His waiving means Seattle now has eight tight ends on its roster.