The Seattle Seahawks have possessed one of the league’s most efficient running games in recent memory. From Marshawn Lynch to Chris Carson to Rashaad Penny to Kenneth Walker III, the team has had an impressive stable of running backs through the past decade. Penny, a former first-round pick, has been borderline dominant… when he’s been on the field. Will the oft-injured but talented runner be back in Seattle in 2023?
Will the Seattle Seahawks Consider Bringing Back Rashaad Penny?
The Seahawks have a new leading man at running back, and his name is Kenneth Walker III. There’s no doubt the 2022 second-round pick out of Michigan State is going to be the top dog on the depth chart heading into his second season.
Walker was sensational during his rookie season, so the team certainly doesn’t have a need at the position. But injuries happen, and the modern-day NFL sees most teams deploy a combination of running backs throughout the year.
Penny, for his part, has been bonkers efficient during his young career. He has an insane career yards-per-carry average of 5.7. Five. Point. Seven. The highest career yards per carry mark among all RBs in modern-era NFL history among those with at least 750 career attempts is 5.4, an honor owned by the legendary Jamaal Charles.
Penny, with 337 career attempts, is still a ways off from qualifying for placement on the all-time list, but his current torrid pace is exemplary of just how explosive the former San Diego State Aztec is.
His past two seasons have been cut short by a myriad of injuries, limiting Penny to just 15 games in the span, but he’s averaged over six yards per carry across those 15 contests. To end the 2021 season, Penny amassed a whopping 135 rushing yards or more in four of five games and racked up six touchdowns over that same span.
So we’ve established that, when healthy, Penny can play with the best of them. But given salary cap considerations and Seattle’s current depth chart and roster construction heading into the 2023 season, should the Seahawks bring him back?
Rashaad Penny Contract Considerations
Most know by now that the running back market is among the toughest from the players’ perspective, especially given the shorter shelf life at the position. What does that mean for Penny as he comes off a one-year, prove-it deal with the open market awaiting?
Rashaad Penny’s Market Value
Following the end of his rookie contract and heading into the 2022 offseason, the Seahawks signed Penny to a one-year, $5.75 million contract, a deal that essentially amounted to a prove-it proposition for Penny as he searched for a longer-term commitment from an NFL team.
Due to injury, Penny could not capitalize on the opportunity, as he appeared in just five games. Though, while healthy during those five games, he looked like the same runner that bulldozed the league at the end of 2021, carrying the rock 57 times for 346 yards (6.07 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
That efficiency combined with Penny’s checkered injury history should allot him another shot at a short-term, middle-of-the-market deal with a team needing a home-run hitter to add to its platoon. I’d imagine that the dollar value will be similar to Penny’s $5.75 million deal he received from Seattle this past season, especially if he’s able to enter the offseason recovered from the broken fibula and high-ankle sprain he sustained in Week 5.
One factor that hurts Penny’s chances of landing a substantial deal on the open market: the vast number of options currently set to hit free agency at the position. Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, Raheem Mostert, D’Onta Foreman, Jeff Wilson Jr., Devin Singletary, and Damien Harris are just some of the top names also in search of big deals.
Of course, that list can be whittled down as teams re-sign their own impending free agents, but that’d also narrow the number of teams in need of help at running back.
Seattle has plenty of cap space, as they are set to head into the 2023 offseason with over $52 million (fifth most in the NFL) with room to create more. That said, a chunk of that could be allocated to locking up Geno Smith (or another veteran QB), as the Seahawks currently don’t have a long-term option at the position under contract.
Seahawks Depth Chart, Options at RB
Walker will be Seattle’s lead back in 2023. Of that, there’s no doubt. But with just fourth-year player DeeJay Dallas as the only other running back under contract for next season, there’s room to bring Penny back into the mix.
With so much cap space at the team’s disposal and a need to address other positions on the roster in the draft, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Penny back in the pacific northwest for at least one more year. Walker and Dallas are both on rookie deals, so Seattle doesn’t have substantial money otherwise tied up at the position.
Walker and Penny could create one of the most formidable RB duos in the league. Regardless of whether Seattle opts to bring back Smith or shoot for a young gun rookie at QB in the draft, the team’s offensive identity runs through its ground game, and securing one of the most explosive players (when healthy) to pair with the ascending Walker would do wonders towards supporting whoever’s under center next season.