Carson was coming off his second straight season with at least 1,100 yards rushing. Griffin had just made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. Both were three years into their NFL careers.
They are the type of young, productive players teams often lock up a year before they're scheduled to become free agents. But sources have told ESPN the Seahawks didn't attempt to do so with either last offseason, as the organization went all in for 2020. That meant adding other players with cash and cap space they would have had to set aside to extend Carson and Griffin, having each play out the final year of their inexpensive rookie deals and crossing fingers they could re-sign them in 2021.
That all-in approach by general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll resulted in a 12-4 regular season, an NFC West title and another disappointing early playoff exit. And now it means Carson and Griffin headline Seattle's list of 21 unrestricted free agents along with K.J. Wright, the team's longest-tenured player.
Cornerback Shaquill Griffin
Griffin could command a bigger deal than you might think. He's 25, has a Pro Bowl on his resume, plays a premier position and is set to hit free agency in a year in which there aren't many good cornerbacks hitting the market. That is, if the Seahawks let him get there.
They could franchise Griffin at an estimated cost of $14.9 million, per OverTheCap.com. Griffin is presumably expecting a deal worth more than that on average, which means things could get tricky if Seattle tagged him. If the Seahawks did so but weren't confident they could get a deal done next offseason, would they consider a tag-and-trade like they did with Frank Clark two years ago?
Either way, the Jacksonville Jaguars seem like a strong fit. They have the most cap space of any team (per OTC) and a need at cornerback. Griffin has ties to the state as a native of St. Petersburg, Florida. Even if Griffin is back and especially if he isn't, re-signing Quinton Dunbar on the cheap makes sense for Seattle, assuming he won't have a strong market after his eventful and injury-filled 2020.
Running back Chris Carson
He's been one of the NFL's more productive runners when healthy, with his 2,381 combined rushing yards from 2018-19 ranking fifth in that span. He has the powerful style Carroll loves, enough agility to hurdle defenders and hands that are as good as a receiver's. The one knock on Carson is his injury history.
He's missed 19 of a possible 64 regular-season games -- including four in 2020 with a foot injury -- and finished two of four seasons on injured reserve. Another factor complicating his situation is this year's free-agent class is loaded with big-name running backs -- Aaron Jones, Leonard Fournette, James Conner and Kenyan Drake, to name a few. The huge supply could drive down the price for Carson and everyone else.
There's also the possibility the Seahawks use a tag on Carson by Monday's deadline, though there's been no indication yet they plan to do so. OverTheCap.com projects the franchise tag for running backs to be around $8.1 million. Carlos Hyde, Carson's backup last season, is also a free agent. He could be a nice Plan B as a former starter who can do some of what Carson does.
Linebacker K.J. Wright
Wright wants to be back for an 11th season in Seattle and finish his career with the team that drafted him, but the longest-tenured Seahawk has also made it clear he doesn't want to give a hometown discount. He wants a raise from the $7.75 million average of his last contract after playing some of the best football of his career -- and playing in every game -- the past two seasons.
But if the 31-year-old Wright has enough of a market to command a big deal, will the Seahawks be inclined to give him a raise given his age, their cap constraints and presumed desire to get 2020 first-round pick Jordyn Brooks more playing time? The New York Jets seem like a logical suitor if Wright leaves. They have loads of cap space and coach Robert Saleh is a Carroll disciple. If Saleh is looking for a veteran to help install his defense and lead a team in transition, Wright would make sense.
Wide receiver David Moore
Moore has been a nice No. 3 receiver behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. He came back from a down season in 2019 to set career-highs in catches (35) and touchdowns (six). But Moore took a pay cut right before the season to stay with Seattle, which suggests the Seahawks won't outbid other teams to keep him, knowing he'd still be their third receiver. The Indianapolis Colts are a team to watch with Moore. Their current regime tried to sign him off Seattle's practice squad in 2017. They now have a big need at receiver.
Center Ethan Pocic
Quarterback Russell Wilson's public lobbying for the Seahawks to beef up his pass-protection adds intrigue to Pocic's situation. Wilson had center and left guard in mind as positions he'd like to see upgraded. The Seahawks view Pocic as a solid starter and believe center is his best position. He ranked 16th among centers in ESPN's pass block win rate last season, his first as a starting center after playing guard and tackle earlier in his career. The Seahawks could do worse than Pocic, but he seems like a fallback option as opposed to someone they'll spend big money to keep.