Two things were clear at the end of the 2020 season when Pete Carroll talked about running back Chris Carson.
One, the Seahawks wanted him back, and two, they knew it would be a challenge to make that happen seeing as Carson was going to be one of the best running backs on the free agent market.
Fortunately for the Seahawks and their offense, the two sides were able to work out a deal in free agency to bring Carson back on a multi-year deal.
Asked about Carson at the end of last season, Carroll said, "Chris is a huge priority, and we'd love to have him back." But Carroll also acknowledged that this was a chance for Carson to set himself up, financially, saying "Chris has got to look out for himself, so he's got to see what the situation is, but we would love for him to be back with us. He's been a terrific part of our team, and hopefully we can keep that going."
By re-signing Carson, one of their top players to hit free agency, the Seahawks answered a big question about their offense heading into 2021. Carroll spoke at the end of the season about wanting to run the ball more effectively in 2021, but doing so is a lot easier said than done without a top-tier running back. Both Carson and Carlos Hyde became free agents with the start of the new league year—Hyde ended up agreeing to terms on a deal with Jacksonville—and had the Seahawks lost both of their top two backs from the 2020 season, running back would have become a position of need this offseason, even with a healthy Rashaad Penny offering another quality option in the backfield.
In Carson, the Seahawks are bringing back a player who, when healthy, has been one of the league's most productive backs since he arrived as a seventh-round pick in 2017. Carson won the starting job early in his rookie season, but that campaign was unfortunately cut short by a leg injury after just four games. He bounced back in a big way in 2018, rushing for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns, making him Seattle's first 1,000-yard rusher since Marshawn Lynch in 2014, and he and followed that up with a 1,230-yard season that saw him score nine more touchdowns (seven rushing, two receiving) making him one of six players in team history to post consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons along with Lynch, Shaun Alexander, Ricky Watters, Chris Warren and Curt Warner.
With the Seahawks throwing the ball more frequently last year and with Carson missing four games due to injury, his overall rushing numbers were down—he gained 681 yards on 141 carries with five rushing touchdowns—but his 4.8 yards-per-carry average was the best of his career, and he also had career-high 287 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. While there will never be another Marshawn Lynch, Carson does bring some of the same tone-setting, physical play that the offense was missing between Lynch's first retirement and Carson's emergence in 2018.
"His style is so obvious," Carroll said when a question was asked about the two being similar. "I just love the way he does it. I mean, there's only one Marshawn. Marshawn is one of a kind and he was an extraordinary everything—player and mentality and everything that he was about. One of a kind. But as far as hitting the line of scrimmage and letting guys know who you're playing against, and leaving the message behind when he hits you, the creativity, his hand-eye coordination, beautiful catching ability, all that kind of stuff, you know, (Carson) is what we're looking for."