Since Week 4, the Seattle Seahawks have been without lead running back Chris Carson due to a neck injury. The Seahawks teased numerous times that Carson could return from his injury, but he hasn’t hit the field again in 2021. What is the latest update regarding Carson’s health, and what does it mean for his future in Seattle?
Chris Carson’s injury timeline
Carson was designated for return by the Seahawks on November 10 but never progressed after that. He was unable to return for Seattle’s Week 10 game. Heading into Week 11, it was announced that Carson would have season-ending neck surgery. He was then subsequently placed on the injured reserve.
That is a major concern for the Seahawks after investing in Carson as their lead running back for 2021. However, with the season now slipping away, the decision makes a lot of sense. Getting Carson back likely would not have been the difference between a playoff run or not this season. Therefore, getting him right for 2022 needs to be the priority.
Carson’s future now hangs in the balance
Interestingly, Carson tried to return, only to be ruled out for the season nine days later. There was no real report of a setback, so we have little clarity on what may have happened. Yet, when you look at his contract situation, it is clear why Carson was desperate to return if possible in 2021.
Carson signed a two-year contract worth $10.425 million in 2021. The deal contained a $4.5 million signing bonus, with $1 million in guaranteed base salary in 2021. The remaining $4.925 million on his contract is not guaranteed. Of that, $425,000 is a roster bonus, with $4.5 million in base salary for 2022.
Currently, Carson is slated to cost the Seahawks $6.425 million against the cap in 2022, with a further dead-money hit of $1.5 million in 2023 after the contract voids following the 2022 campaign. The Seahawks can save either $3.425 million or $4.925 million by releasing Carson after this season.
If Seattle releases Carson ahead of the 2022 league year, they will save his salary and roster bonus. However, the $1.5 million due in the void year in 2023 would automatically roll onto the cap in 2022. If they designate him as a post-June 1 release, they will incur $1.5 million cap numbers in 2022 and 2023. The lack of protection for Carson in his contract makes it easy to understand why he was trying to come back and play through the injury.
Alex Collins is leading the Seahawks’ backfield
The injury to Carson has allowed Alex Collins to revive his NFL career. Collins has now led the Seahawks’ backfield since Carson was injured in Week 4. He has had mixed success, but injuries and lack of consistency by those around him have meant he remains the starter heading into Week 12.
Behind Collins on the depth chart are Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, and Travis Homer. Penny has the most pedigree of the three, as Seattle selected him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Neverteless, injuries have highlighted his career, as he has played just 415 snaps with 178 rush attempts in his four-year NFL tenure.