Chris Carson is again officially a Seahawk.
Eight days after it was first reported that Carson had agreed to a contract to stay with the team, the Seahawks officially announced it Saturday.
The delay might have been in part due to some necessary salary-cap maneuvering as the Seahawks made a bevy of other recent moves, including the signings of defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder.
Carson signed what works out to be a two-year deal worth up to $10.425 million, but with a voidable year in 2023 that allows the Seahawks to spread out his $4.5 million bonus over three years. That helps drop Carson’s salary cap hit for 2021 to $2.5 million. Had he signed the franchise tag, the cap hit would have been $8.65 million for the 2021 season.
Carson is one of five known contracts on which Seattle has used voidable years, which is essentially just a fake year in the contract there solely to prorate the signing bonus.
The Seahawks, though, will need to pull off a few more tricks to fit in all of their signings under the cap.
The release of Jarran Reed on Friday saved Seattle $8.9 million against the cap. With Reed’s release accounted for but not the signings of Dunlap, Hyder, defensive tackle Al Woods or offensive linemen Jordan Simmons and Cedric Ogbuehi, the Seahawks were listed with $641,987 in cap space, second-lowest in the NFL.
Possible alternatives for creating more cap space include redoing contracts for the likes of offensive lineman Gabe Jackson (who has a $9.6 million cap hit in 2021 and $9.5 million in 2022) or other players, or turning base salary into bonus for Russell Wilson and/or Bobby Wagner (though that simply pushes their big cap numbers into future seasons, something the team might not want to do with voidable years already adding to dead cap numbers for future seasons).
With a few free-agency items left, such as potentially re-signing veteran linebacker K.J. Wright, the Seahawks will have to do something.
As for Carson, his return gives Seattle a deep stable of running backs — five players who all saw action for Seattle last year and were all drafted by Seattle over the past few seasons.
The running back depth chart for now likely looks like this:
- Carson (2017 seventh-round choice);
- Rashaad Penny (2018 first-round choice);
- Alex Collins (2016 fifth-round choice);
- Travis Homer (2019 sixth-round choice);
- and DeeJay Dallas (2020 fourth-round choice).
Seattle also has re-signed fullback Nick Bellore and usually doesn’t keep more than five total running backs on its initial 53-man roster, meaning the competition for roster spots in the backfield looms as one of the more intriguing position battles of training camp.
What’s certain is Carson will be the leader of the pack, having gotten a substantial payday to return — although maybe not quite what he might have received if the salary cap wasn’t $15.7 million less than the year before. (PFF had estimated Carson might get $27 million over three years.)
But with coach Pete Carroll’s statement after the season that the Seahawks need to run better and more in 2021, Carson figures to get plenty of usage to set up another run at a big contract two years from now when he will be just 28 years old.
Carson’s 12 100-yard games since 2018 are the fifth-most in the NFL. And while he missed four games last year in the middle of the season due to a foot injury his average of 4.8 yards per carry was the best of his career (681 yards on 141 attempts) and he tied a career high with 37 receptions while setting career highs with 287 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Carson was one of three players (Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara) with four-plus rush touchdowns (5) and four-plus receiving touchdowns (4).