A recent story in The Athletic considered Seattle unlikely to re-sign free agent running back Chris Carson. The writer doesn't expect Carson to sign a long-term deal for less money annually than the franchise tag would pay him. I think he's right that Seattle won't pay Carson that kind of coin, not as certain that Carson believes he can make that much on the open market. A reunion is still possible.

But Carson will probably test the market, and 30-year-old Carlos Hyde won't necessarily be back, either. So those hunting for potential 2021 starting running backs need to at least take a look at former first-round pick Rashaad Penny (pictured).

Penny has been a disappointment to this point in his career, to put it mildly. He barely played last season, coming back from a knee injury that wrecked his sophomore season. His 11 carries went for just 34 yards. That 3.1 yards per attempt was worst among the team's running backs; only Carson, Hyde and Alex Collins distinguished themselves in 2020.

Chris Carson1416814.85
Carlos Hyde813564.44
Alex Collins18774.32
Travis Homer25883.50
DeeJay Dallas341083.22
Rashaad Penny11343.10

That's a pretty small sample set for Penny, and next year he'll be another year removed from his ACL injury. So those numbers can reasonably be downplayed. Maybe Collins? He had his moments late last year, and with Baltimore a few years back. But he's bounced around the league and spent most of the year on Seattle's practice squad, so clearly they don't value him highly. Penny, in contrast, Pete Carroll has talked up whenever he gets the chance.

In Penny's first two seasons, he flashed the talent that caused Seattle to invest a first-round pick in him. In both of those years he averaged at least 4.9 yards per attempt behind an offensive line that's never been particularly noteworthy. Penny's first two years, with that solid yards per attempt and also catching 17 of 23 passes thrown his way, are a better indication of what he might be able to do in the starting lineup.


I'm not really advocating anyone have much in the way of optimism for Penny. Carroll talks everyone up, after all. Seattle could draft a running back early, or chase some veteran free agent like LeVeon Bell. They could also bring back Hyde or even Carson. They also have Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas, though as noted above neither was particularly impressive in 2020.

But those in dynasty leagues can at least consider a roster spot for Penny. He'll get a chance to have a significant role for the team, and there's been some potential when he's on the field. So maybe. Doesn't seem particularly likely, but it's the time of year to take shots in the dark on players and hope they pay off.

--Andy Richardson