According to Adam Caplan and then Mike Silver, the Seahawks have been negotiating with two free agent running backs — Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde.
Silver has reported Seattle’s offer to Freeman is worth up to $4m.
He also had a fairly interesting review of where the Seahawks are at with the position:
5) Possible addition of Devonta Freeman or Carlos Hyde via free agency; 6) Possible re-signing of free agent C.J. Prosise; 7) As with last season, Marshawn Lynch would head the list of emergency in-season replacements if injuries strike, and if he wants to play.
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) May 20, 2020
It really speaks to how this is quite an underrated problem.
Just park your own opinions on the value of the running back position for a second and consider how reliant the Seahawks are on a productive running game.
The offense couldn’t function properly when Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny were injured at the end of the season. And while Russell Wilson mercifully rallied against San Francisco and Green Bay — the comeback attempts followed a whole bunch of struggle and strife as both opponents flooded coverage, won with a four man pass rush and ultimately made life harder for Wilson than it needed to be.
The overly simplistic reaction was the brainless ‘let Russ cook’ retort on social media. In reality, even the most prolific pass-centric offense has a reasonable semblance of balance to keep a defense honest. Kansas City, after all, just spent their top pick on a running back. Look how the Rams’ offense struggled as soon as Todd Gurley became less effective. The 49ers and Saints run the ball very well.
Even if the Seahawks aimed to throw 100% of the time — they would face the same kind of issues as experienced in the early stages of the Green Bay and San Francisco games if they trot out Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch at running back.
The fact that Rashaad Penny is going to start the year on the PUP list puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Carson to stay healthy — something he hasn’t managed to do in his NFL or college career. It’s a nice thought to think Deejay Dallas might be able to fill a void — but he looks very much a Robert Turbin-esque compliment rather than someone who leads your running attack.
So here we are — with the Seahawks trying to negotiate a contract with two veterans. Hyde in fairness enjoyed a reasonable 1,070 yard season in Houston last year at 4.4 YPC — scoring six touchdowns. Freeman was far less successful. He had 656 yards at 3.6 YPC and only two touchdowns in 14 games.
He already looks well beyond his best — so much so that Atlanta preferred to roll the dice on Gurley and take a $6m dead cap hit for Freeman.
A couple of weeks ago I questioned whether Seattle had used the $53.37m they’ve spent on veterans this year wisely. Paying another $4m for Freeman would be another questionable decision — right up there with giving Bruce Irvin a 32% pay increase, bumping Cedric Ogbuehi’s pay from $895,000 to $2.237m, spending $3.259m on Jacob Hollister despite investing $7m in Greg Olsen then drafting two tight ends, using your first round pick on a position where you’re already committing $25m to two players or failing to invest serious resources into your biggest need (D-line) while collecting 18 offensive linemen.
More importantly though, $4m is a significant chunk of cash on a player who looks spent. Would he seriously contribute much at all — other than providing name recognition? If Carson got hurt, is Devonta Freeman going to come to the rescue?
And while many folks like to ridicule the idea of spending a high pick on a running back — it’s worth noting the four-year value teams are getting by tapping into a talented group in the 2020 draft class.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s cap hit this year will likely be around $1.9m. In the final year of his rookie deal his cap hit will be about $3.2m — less than the Seahawks are reportedly willing to commit to Freeman.
D’Andre Swift, the #35 pick, is projected to have a cap hit in 2020 of about $1.4m. In the fourth and final year of his contract, he will cost about $2.4m.
Jonathan Taylor, the #41 pick by Indianapolis, should have a $1.3m cap hit this year. He’ll likely never have a cap hit higher than $2.2m over the course of his rookie deal.
Cam Akers, the #52 pick by the Rams, will have a cap hit of $1m in 2020 and a year-four cap hit of about $1.8m.
J.K. Dobbins, the #55 pick by Baltimore, will have a cap hit this year between $900,000 and $1m. His first contract will likely never cost more than $1.6m.
A.J. Dillon the #62 pick by Green Bay is slated to earn slightly more than the $841,794 Andy Isabella received for the same draft placing a year ago.
It’s indisputable that it’s unwise to invest millions in running backs. The results speak for themselves. The Packers likely picked Dillon to avoid spending big on Aaron Jones. There are very few cases — such as Marshawn Lynch in his peak — where you can justify it.
Yet the extreme value presented with the players above — especially compared to the amount you have to spend for someone like Devonta Freeman — is telling. This was a seriously underrated collection of running backs.
The talent won’t be there ever year. When it is, however, there’s value to be had with the way the running back position is being downgraded on draft boards.
Had the Seahawks’ selected Edwards-Helaire, Swift or Taylor with their top pick — the internet would’ve exploded. Yet going into this season they would’ve had proper, cheap insurance against a Carson injury and a replacement solution when he becomes a free agent in 2021 (if he commands a big salary, which I doubt to be honest).
Not to mention, Edwards-Helaire and Taylor in particular are immensely talented. The two coaches and GM’s who drafted them certainly know a fair bit about picking for value and talent on offense. I thought both players were among the twenty best players in the 2020 draft.
The Seahawks instead picked defense with their first two picks. Which is understandable given their raging need to fix the defense. Yet their inability to properly address it in free agency — despite spending so much money — virtually forced them to avoid the skill position options in the draft. Remember — this wasn’t just a good group of running backs. It was an excellent receiver class too.
It felt obvious that the plan needed to be a defensive splash in free agency then tap into the strength of the draft early. The Colts played a blinder there — using their top pick in the veteran market to acquire a fantastic defensive linemen before using two picks in round two to get a receiver and a running back. Textbook.
Seattle went into the draft with a need at running back (thus the Deejay Dallas pick in round four) but an even greater need across the defense.
If Jordyn Brooks goes on to emulate K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner and enjoy 8-10 years at the heart of Seattle’s defense — it’ll be a moot point. If he spends most of his rookie season learning the ropes behind two players costing $25m in 2020 — while Seattle can’t make life easier for Wilson due to a bad situation at running back — that will only serve to highlight, again, what a confusing off-season this has been at a time the Seahawks really needed a focused and well-executed plan to take the next step.
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