What do Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon and Chris Carson all have in common?
They're all starting running backs from the 2017 NFL Draft.
Now, one day before the opening Sunday of the 2020 NFL Season, Carson's the only running back from that group to not have signed a longterm extension.
Joe Mixon inked a brand new four-year, $49.2 million deal last month; the Carolina Panthers signed McCaffrey to a four-year, $64 million extension in April; and then on Saturday, the New Orleans Saints gave Kamara five-years, $75 million, and the Minnesota Vikings gave Cook a five-year, $62.5 million extension.
Meanwhile, Carson will play out the last year of his rookie contract this season, earning just $2.15 million, before becoming a free agent.
Despite finishing in the top-5 in rushing yards each of the last two seasons, Carson will be the 36th-highest paid running back this season and the third-highest paid running back in Seattle behind Rashaad Penny and Carlos Hyde.
Has Seattle's reluctance to give Carson an extension been on his mind? It appears so.
“Of course it’s something that’s on my mind," Carson said on September 2nd. "You see a lot of guys starting to get paid, but I try to not let it distract me from the season.”
When asked if Seattle had approached him about a potential extension, Carson responded "Not really, no."
Will he get that big-money contract from Seattle next offseason? Hard to tell.
[Listen to the latest Talking' Seahawks Podcast with host Joe Fann and guest Chris Simms!]
Seattle clearly thinks a running back is more important than most franchises, having spent a first-round pick on Penny in 2018 and having the sixth-highest rushing percentage in 2019 (46.6% of plays). But, Carson has had a pair of season-ending injuries: a broken leg in 2017 and a fractured hip in 2019.
Given his physical running style, signing Carson to a longterm extension would be risky and the Seahawks have other soon-to-be-free-agents to lock up in Shaquil Griffin and Jamal Adams. Both of which are Pro Bowl caliber players that will demand a hefty raise off their rookie scale contracts.
Also, the Seahawks want to contend for Super Bowls with Russell Wilson in his prime which means surrounding him with the most and best talent they can. With running back being a more easily replaceable position, it may not make sense to sign Carson to big money.
The last Super Bowl Champion that paid its running back hefty money was coincidentally 2013 when Seattle's Marshawn Lynch was the NFL's 4th-highest paid running back. But, that team had so many key contributors on rookie contracts that it allowed Seattle to pay Lynch without relinquishing real depth.
The 2021 Seattle Seahawks will not have that luxury, especially after making Russell Wilson the then-highest paid player in the NFL and trading away two first round picks for Jamal Adams this past offseason. That team will also have a fully healthy Rashaad Penny in theory and the franchise clearly believed in him enough to select him in the first round.
Seattle could easily elect to run with Penny, Travis Homer and 2020 fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas, who has received from praise from head coach Pete Carroll during training camp.
"He has been a stud. He hasn’t missed anything and he has taken tons of snaps. He has really picked things up really well," said Carroll. "Right from the first few days he was with us, I know Russ and the coaches were really felt confident in him. He runs routes really well and catches the ball beautifully, so that kind gave him a leg up on his start."
Don't be surprised if this is Carson's final season in a Seahawks uniform.