Keep an eye on Chris Carson in 2021, Philadelphia Eagles fans.
If we’re being honest, and I’d like to think Section 215 is a place where we can be honest with one another, the Philadelphia Eagles are probably done adding running backs for the 2020 NFL season.
I know, I know it’s not a lot of fun to say. ‘What about trading for OG Eagle Raheem Mostert? Devonta Freeman is still a free agent, there’s a chance he agrees to one year deal.’ Unfortunately, it’s probably true: Barring a shocking trade, a surprise signing, or a season-ending injury, the Eagles have got what they got headed into the regular season.
But in 2021, that, my friends, is a completely different story.
Now as you may or may not know, the Philadelphia Eagles are in a pretty deep financial hole going into next season. Depending on how things go, the team may have to shed some serious money to even get under the salary cap, let alone be players in free agency.
With that being said, that doesn’t mean Howie Roseman can’t do somehow Howie Roseman things, work his magic on the cap, and identify some under-appreciated assets who could vastly overperform their meager financial commitments and bolster the team’s talent level considerably.
In the NFL, maybe more so than any other sport, games are won in the margins.
But who, may you ask, is my personal favorite marginal addition and could make serious waves in the Philadelphia Eagles’ scheme next fall should he be allowed to hit the open market in 2021? Well, it would be none other than current Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson.
Carson, a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State in the 2017 NFL draft, is one of the more under-appreciated running backs in the NFL. While he may not be the biggest, fastest, or strongest rusher in the league, Carson has passed the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, had the fifth-most yards of any running back in 2019, and had the second-most first downs of any rusher in the league – all the while fighting off would-be replacements like 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny and yet another Marshawn Lynch return-from-retirement run.
Why? Because Carson is a gosh darn bowling ball between the tackles the likes of which the Birds haven’t had since… well, since they traded a 2021 fourth-round pick to acquire Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears last spring.
Granted, that asking price looks a tad steep when you consider Howard left after one season and was ultimately supplanted by Miles Sanders before the season even began, but most of his woes had more to do with injuries than his fit in the Birds’ offense. In theory, pairing Sanders up with a power back like Howard, LeGarrette Blount, or Carson is the exact strategy that could build a fruitful, variable, long-term running game for the foreseeable future.
In Sanders, the Eagles have their star. He’s an elusive slasher with good vision, great hands, and a still relatively untapped ability to kick out to wide receiver in a pinch. The same goes for Boston Scott. While he isn’t the biggest back in the league, he’s built like a tank and proved a worthy in-house successor to Darren Sproles over the back-half of the 2019 season. Could either run between the tackles 10-15 times a game in addition to his work outside the tackles? Totally, but why force a space player to do so when someone like Carson could do so more effectively while freeing up Sanders to take higher-percentage runs?
In the NFL, you have to have different flavors for different situations. The Eagles have big wide receivers, shifty wide receivers, possession wide receivers (*cough* tight ends), and oh so many speedsters. By committing a mid-level deal to a player like Carson, the Birds could deploy a similar strategy in the offensive backfield with a fineness player like Sanders, a power rusher in Carson, a change-of-pace scatback in Scott, and – assuming he re-signs – a jack-of-all-trades utility back in Corey Clement, who can do a little bit of everything.
So, if Carson is such an intriguing offensive option, why would the Seahawks let him go? All you have to do is check out the team’s transactions sheet to find out. From drafting Penny in the first round, to signing Carlos Hyde back in May, and the team’s reported interest in Devonta Freeman post-draft, the Seahawks appear less than committed to Carson as their long-term running back of the future. Whether it’s his age – as he’ll turn 27 mere days before the 2021 NFL season – his lack of long speed, or his average-at-best receiving abilities, Carson is just one of those players who you like to have on your team but aren’t particularly fond of paying even middle money to.
Fortunately, Philly sort of has a thing for those middle-of-the-road lunchpail players.
Assuming he doesn’t earn a lucrative extension this summer or ends up landing a massive deal in free agency after a third-straight 1,000-yard season, Chris Carson may very well find himself an uber-specifically talented runner without a home next spring. If that’s the case, the Philadelphia Eagles should swoop in, sign him up to an a la Jordan Howard’s two-year, $9.75 million contract with the Dolphins, and finally pair up Miles Sanders in a thunder-‘n-lightning attack with a dash of Boston Scott thrown in for good measure. After playing power rusher speed dating over the entirety of the Doug Pederson-era, it’d be nice to finally commit to someone, at least for a few seasons. I guess two Carsons could be better than one.