Chris Carson and Shaquill Griffin are doing what they can to make their cases for new contracts in 2021.
Both were big parts of the Seahawks’ win in Miami, Carson scoring twice and tallying 100 total yards and Griffin picking off a pass and preventing a late touchdown as they helped Seattle improve to 4-0.
But fans need to steel themselves to the idea that this season could be the last hurrah for the best draft picks from Seattle’s 2017 class. Even more reason – like we need more than one — for the Hawks to win another Super Bowl now.
K.J. Wright, who had a very good game in Miami as well, did a little contract negotiating for Carson afterward: “I can’t wait ’til he gets paid, whether it’s here or somewhere else, because he’s definitely top five in my eyes.”
Here’s the problem for Carson: The running back market is hot for keepers, not so much for leavers.
A bunch of good backs got big money this year: Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon all got over $12 million a year from their original teams.
But it’s really hard to see John Schneider paying that kind of money to Carson, especially with his injury history/future and the salary cap expected to regress by as much as $23 million due to lost revenue from this pandemic season. And, if Seattle won’t pay Carson, it is doubtful anyone else will.
Le’Veon Bell, who had three really good years in Pittsburgh, got $13 million from the Jets, who have very much regretted it. But the money really dropped this year for backs who signed with other teams. Denver paid Melvin Gordon $8 million and Atlanta paid Todd Gurley $5.5 million. Gordon’s money is probably the best Carson can expect from another team. And, even if the Hawks were willing to keep him for that price, he might consider it an insult that they did not pay him top dollar and sign elsewhere for the $8 million.
DK Metcalf called Carson an “animal” after his game in Miami, but the young receiver also unintentionally pointed out what Schneider likely is thinking: “We’ve got backs for days.” Carlos Hyde was inactive in Miami with a shoulder injury, which allowed DeeJay Dallas to make his NFL debut at Hard Rock Stadium, his old college field. The Hawks also have third-down back Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny (rehabbing a knee injury) has one more season, so team has options for 2021 without paying Carson.
Carson knows he might be leaving. He said he pushed to play in Miami because he doesn’t want to miss a game this season: “That’s a goal that I set for myself this year. I wanted to play 16 games, no matter what the situation is — injuries, stuff like that. I want to tell myself if I can play through it, I’m going to play through it. I know that’s one big notch that a lot of teams have on me is, ‘Can you play a whole season?’ And I want to prove to myself and prove to everybody else that I can.’’
Meanwhile, Schneider has been noncommittal about paying Griffin, who has been pretty inconsistent during his brief NFL career (and this season as well). Schneider might not see Griffin being worth the $14 million to $16 million he likely wants – only Russell Wilson ($35 million) and Bobby Wagner ($18 million) get paid that much on the Seattle roster. Some other team likely will bite for that amount though, which is why you can probably say goodbye to Griffin, too, after 2020.
In that case, Schneider and Pete Carroll will need to decide whether Quinton Dunbar merits re-signing – and at what price. The offseason robbery case and his recent injury definitely have dented his value, which really will be determined over the rest of the season.
If the Hawks end up not re-signing Griffin or Dunbar, corner will be their No. 1 need, by far, in 2021. Could Ugo Amadi – an early-season star at nickel – start on the outside? If not, they will have to invest a little money in a veteran or draft a starter in the second round (they don’t have a first-round pick).
As for other big business next offseason …
The Seahawks certainly will prioritize an extension for Jamal Adams, which will cost $15 million a year. Tyler Lockett, a star in the prime of his career, also should get another extension – worth at least $15 million. Joining Carson and Griffin among free agents to consider re-signing will be Wright and (surprisingly) Ethan Pocic.
Extensions for Adams and Lockett would lower their 2021 cap hits, which total about $22 million right now. But that still would leave, at best, around $25 million under a $175 million cap.
If the Hawks re-signed Pocic for maybe $6 million a year (unthinkable before this season), tendered RFA Poona Ford at $3.4 million and cut B.J. Finney to recoup $3.5 million, they could have maybe $23 million for any non-rookie salaries.
Other non-minimum pending free agents the Hawks need to consider re-signing: Wright, who is playing as well as ever (at $7 million); Jacob Hollister, who proves his worth (at $3.26 million) every time he gets a chance; and Mike Iupati, if the Hawks think the cheap veteran ($2.5 million) is better than any of their young guys.
If Wright keeps up his recent caliber of play, the Hawks should consider keeping him for a couple more years – give him a chance to play his entire career as a Seahawk. There’s clearly room for both Wright and Jordyn Brooks bookending Wagner.
Greg Olsen is going to retire after this season, so the Hawks will have oft-injured Will Dissly (in his contract year) and injured rookie Colby Parkinson at tight end in 2021. Hollister has proven much more reliable than either, and re-signing him for three years or so would keep that position set even if Dissly were to leave in 2022.
The options to replace Iupati are Jordan Simmons, Chance Warmack (back from his COVID opt-out) and Phil Haynes (who can’t stay healthy). So Iupati, 33, might be worth another $2.5 million.
Later next offseason, Schneider also needs to decide whether extensions are merited for any of these guys: Quandre Diggs, Jarran Reed, Brandon Shell and Michael Dickson (the only 2018 draft pick worth considering right now). But Schneider rarely signs players to long-term deals anymore, so Adams and Lockett might be the only ones.
Because Seattle has few players signed past 2021, Schneider has plenty of cap space to work with in 2022 and beyond – whether the salary cap stays flat around $200 million or jumps to $225 million on new TV deals. It’s just a matter of which guys he thinks are worth long-term investments – and at which prices.