Chris Carson announces retirement from NFL
Seaside Bonus: The last of 11 picks by Seahawks in 2017, Carson outlasted everyone drafted ahead of him
The Seattle Seahawks ended up with two second and four third round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but none of those six players or the four prospects taken after them had nearly the same impact as John Schneider’s final selection that year. The 249th choice of the class—four shy of being Mr. Irrelevant—Carson only appeared in 49 games over five seasons but still managed the highest career AV of any Seahawks draft pick in 2017.
On Tuesday, the first day of Seattle’s 2022 training camp, Chris Carson officially announced that he is retiring from the NFL because of a neck injury suffered almost a year ago.
It was only last month that Carson expressed optimism of a long career left to go, saying that he would “continue to fight” until he had no other choice. His “big” medical assessment this month was the final straw and Carson had to protect his body over his body of work.
The moment was long expected by most fans and made the decision to draft Kenneth Walker III all the more wise, as the Seahawks know that they intend the run the football as much as humanly possible this season and Rashaad Penny has his own list of ailments to consider as he plays 2022 on only a one-year contract. Having Carson as a third option in the backfield would have been a considerable advantage for Pete Carroll, but Tuesday’s news was considered imminent by almost everyone other than Carson.
Though Carson is often cited as a reason to “wait” on drafting running backs because of his seventh round status, he is one of the most unique and talented day three picks in recent NFL history. Running back or otherwise.
Since 2002 realignment, Carson’s 3,502 rushing yards ranks as the 16th-most by a player drafted in round four or later, and the fourth-most by a seventh round pick after only Ahmad Bradshaw, Justin Forsett (another Seahawks pick), and Rashad Jennings. Had it not been for his extensive injury history, including missing 12 games as a rookie and 13 games in 2021, Carson could have easily been the best seventh round back of the last 20 years.
After all, Chris Carson reached his rushing total (3,502) in only 49 games, compared to 122 for Justin Forsett (3,890 yards), 103 for Bradshaw (4,928), and 93 for Jennings (3,772).
Carson also caught 107 passes for 804 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.
But it was also Carson’s lack of experience at a Division-I college (213 carries in two seasons at Oklahoma State after transferring from a JC) that pushed him to being available in the seventh round. If NFL coaches could have confirmed him as a full-time back prior to the 2017 draft, Carson would have been taken somewhere on day two.
That was all but confirmed by the fact that Carson entered a running back competition as a rookie behind Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise, among others, and still managed to be Seattle’s Week 1 starter against the Packers that year. Carson followed up with 100 total yards in Week 2’s win over the 49ers, and he caught/scored his first touchdown in Week 3 versus the Titans.
We will never know what might have been, as Carson broke his ankle in Week 4. He went out with 66 yards against the Colts despite only playing in 50% of the snaps.
Carson returned to his RB1 position in 2018 even though the Seahawks selected Penny with the 27th overall pick in the draft. He rushed for a career-high 102 yards in Week 3 against the Cowboys and scored his first career rushing touchdown. Though he sat out Week 4, he returned in Week 5 for a new career-best 116 yards in a brutal two-point loss to the L.A. Rams.
There were few running backs in the NFL better than Carson in the second half of the season, as he scored seven touchdowns in the final seven weeks, rushing for at least 116 yards in each of the last three games. Carson ended 2018 with a career-high 122 yards in a 27-24 win over the Cardinals.
Chris Carson finishes his career with 1,123 rushing yards in 14 games against the NFC West, as well as 31 catches on 37 targets for 243 yards. Though Carson did have fumbling issues in his career, he only had one fumble against the NFC West and never had a turnover within the division.
Carson was also at his best on third down: He had 75 carries for 392 yards (5.2 YPC average is his highest of any down), picking up 49 first downs on the ground and another five as a receiver.
In 2019, Carson set career-highs for games played (15), carries (278), rushing yards (1,230), and his 37 catches for 266 yards would be a career-best until catching 37 for 287 the following year. He had six 100-yard games that season, including 124 against the Browns and 133 in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers, also scoring two touchdowns that day; the 133 yards was Carson’s final game over 100 yards and also a career-high.
Carson did not get many opportunities during the “Let Russ Cook” season, and that may have helped him post a career-high 4.8 yards per carry in 2020. It also pumped up his receiving stats, and he scored nine total touchdowns for the third year in a row. Carson also only fumbled twice over his final 16 games, a remarkable improvement from where he had been in 2019.
We will never know what might have been in 2021, and Carson’s absence eventually gave way to both the Penny pounding in the final quarter of the season and the Walker walk-in this past April, but he looked good in two of his three starts prior to his Week 4 injury: 16 carries for 93 yards to open the season and 12 carries for 80 yards in Week 3 against the Vikings.
Overall, Chris Carson is not evidence that you can always find a great starting running back if you wait until day three. Instead, he’s the exception that proves the rule, while also carrying the unfortunate injury risk designation that caused him to be available much later in the 2017 draft than he had business dropping into.
The Seahawks will be gaining some cap space because of Carson’s unfortunate news (he was owed a $4.5 million base salary, but Carson will get $2 million for injury protection and Seattle will have a $1.2 million cap hit), but they will be losing a great running back.
And an unbelievably good value in the seventh round.
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I wish I had the ability to write an ode for Chris Carson. As I am a Chris, I will bully my way through this just like he did NFL defenses. I think one of the best things I could say about Chris is, I think we would have beaten the Cowboys in that playoff game if he were there. No doubt we did run the ball too often and started passing when it was to late. Dallas dared us to run the ball something they would not have done with big number 32 in the backfield.
I am delighted that Carson made it from pick 249, to a good second contract he earned it. It's also great news he will make an extra $2 million through injury designation.
I have never met a Seahawk fan that didn't respect Chris Carson. Those NFC numbers are astounding, great break down Joe.
A few months ago Pete let us know this would probably happen, at the same time he said Carson was one of his all time favorite Seahawks. Here is to Chris hoping you have relatively minor, to no discomfort for your well deserved retirement, from being a warrior in the truest sense of the word.
To the so slothful lazy so called football pundits, to not understand why the Hawks drafted Kenneth Walker lll where they did, you should be ashamed.
Will really miss Carson. If he had high-end speed, would have been a truly great running back. Loved the way he lowered his shoulder and kept his legs moving. Loved how he came to play every week and left it all on the field. Of course, his career is Exhibit A in the case for why running backs typically have short careers. Let's enjoy Penny and Walker while we can.
So glad he signed a post-rookie contract. Hope he knows how to manage his money so he can be set for life. Didn't earn so much that he won't have to be smart about it.
Carson won't make the Ring of Honor and certainly not the Hall of Fame, but he'll live in my heart as a very special Seahawk. I believe I'm not at all unique among fans in that regard.