Chris Carson Landing Spots: Potential suitors for the Seahawks RB

After being the staple of their backfield for three seasons, Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson now looks to free agency in his search for a new landing spot. One of the most underrated RBs in the NFL, Chris Carson could come in and be the workhorse for several NFL teams.

Chris Carson saw an ample workload in Seattle, maybe to his detriment

Up until the first half of last season, Seattle was a run-first team who never let “Russ cook.” The spearhead of this rushing attack was former seventh-round pick Chris Carson. 

A case could be made for RB Chris Carson as the most underrated running back in the NFL. He is a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher and has put up 28 touchdowns in the last three years. Furthermore, he’s also proven he can carry a massive load. In 2018 and 2019, Carson saw 267 and 315 touches, respectively.

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However, the question we have to ask is — did that type of usage lead to his injury-shortened 2020 season? The fourth-year pro out of Oklahoma State missed four games in the middle of the season with a sprained foot. Seattle went 2-2 in those games, and consequently, never found a rushing attack. Sure, they had a 4.4 per carry average, but Wilson scrambled for 130 of those yards. 

It’s almost as if Seattle was trying to manage his workload in 2020. His 15.8 touches per game are the lowest of his career. He averaged 21 touches per game in 2019 and 19 in 2018. 

This could be one reason the Seahawks parted ways with their productive RB. Now, Chris Carson can start the process of finding a new landing spot to call home in free agency.

A reduced 2021 salary cap will heavily impact potential landing spots for RBs like Chris Carson

Due to lost revenue of the 2020 season, the NFL salary cap took a massive hit. Adam Schefter recently reported the 2021 salary cap will be $182.5 million.

Because of this, teams will be cash-strapped and have to make difficult decisions regarding veterans and how bullish they can be in free agency. The one position that will have the biggest impact is the running back position. With the NFL moving towards more committee-style approaches, fewer players are getting bell-cow contracts despite their talent.

Now that Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones is also hitting the market, Chris Carson is likely the second-most valuable running back looking for a new landing spot in free agency. Both will command a high price tag due to their body of work and production.

As he hits free agency, where are some potential landing spots for Chris Carson in 2021?

Chris Carson could see the New York Jets as a landing spot during the 2021 free agency period

Adam Gase is out of the picture, and Robert Saleh needs help at the running back position. Additionally, the Jets have plenty of cash to throw to help take the pressure off Sam Darnold or whoever will play quarterback. Currently, the organization sits second in cap space projections at $82.33 million. 

The offensive line needs work for sure. Let’s say the Jets take one more shot with Sam Darnold and use the pick to take Penei Sewell. Pairing him with Mekhi Becton, the offensive line gets a whole lot better. Carson would be a terrific back to feature behind that line.

On the other hand, Chris Carson is one of the best at handling volume and could take on a large role if they take a rookie QB. If they do go quarterback with the second overall pick as many expect, both Justin Fields and Zach Wilson will need a running back to rely on as they adjust to the NFL.

Could the Buffalo Bills be a potential landing spot for Chris Carson in free agency?

Yes, they have Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, but no one would put them in the “game-changer” category. Carson is a hard-nosed, aggressive rusher that would be an excellent fit in Buffalo. The issue would be needing him to take a team-friendly contract. According to Spotrac, Buffalo has $4.59 million in cap space, but Chris Carson has an estimated market value of $7.4 million on a four-year, $29.608 million contract.

The Miami Dolphins are a logical landing spot for Chris Carson

They have cap space, a need at RB, and enter a window to make serious noise in the AFC East. Miami has the ninth-most spending space in the NFL.

Going into the 2020 season with questions at the position, Miami deployed several running backs. Of those, the most successful was Myles Gaskin, a 2019 seventh-round pick from Washington. Gaskin played just 10 games and led the Dolphins in rushing with 584 yards on 142 carries, adding another 388 yards on 41 receptions with 5 touchdowns.

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Miami has consistently been linked to one of the top running backs in the 2021 NFL Draft at No. 18. Odds are both Najee Harris from Alabama and Clemson RB Travis Etienne will be available. However, signing Chris Carson in free agency would allow them to use that crucial pick on other needs. While the fit does make sense, it’s just as likely they pursue Aaron Jones.

The Atlanta Falcons could be a landing spot for an RB like Chris Carson in free agency

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith needs to try to recreate the rushing attack he had with the Tennessee Titans. To do this, he needs a running back. Todd Gurley will become a free agent in 2021, leaving Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison, and Tony Brooks-James to carry the workload. While serviceable, none of them have enough skill to be an RB1 for an NFL team.

The fit makes sense, but whether or not the cash-strapped Falcons organization wants to pay for a veteran running back is a different question. Currently, the Falcons are $11.931 million over the cap, and Smith has expressed he wants to build around the guys in the locker room. I am sure they will be linked in rumors to Chris Carson as a potential landing spot, but if it happens is another issue entirely.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.