Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) during the first half of a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III (9) during the first half of a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Walker, Charbonnet sure to lead RB corps again

The running back position brings rare certainty to Seattle’s offseason of upheaval.

This Seahawks’ offseason of upheaval appears to have at least one certainty: the running back position.

While the coaching staff has already turned over, and there are sure to be some major personnel moves on the horizon, you can probably set in stone that Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet will lead Seattle’s running back corps in 2024, and that Kenny McIntosh will likely factor in somewhere, as well.

Not that additions couldn’t be made — and Seattle will surely bring in some depth options.

But given needs and cap-space issues elsewhere, the Seahawks seem pretty set to run it back with their running back room in 2024.

STARTER

Kenneth Walker III

Age: 23

Snaps played in regular season: 502 of 1,051, 47.76% (via Pro Football Reference)

Contract situation: Walker will be entering the third season of his four-year rookie deal in 2024, due to make $1.4 million — of which $1.031 million is guaranteed — and to count $2.3 million against the salary cap. Rookie contracts cannot be renegotiated until after the third year, so Walker is locked into this for 2024.

BACKUPS

Zach Charbonnet

Age: 22

Snaps played in regular season: 478, 45.48%

Contract situation: Entering second season of four-year rookie deal in 2024, due to make $1.062 million and to count $1.562 million against the cap. His base salary is guaranteed.

DeeJay Dallas

Age: 25

Snaps played in regular season: 96, 9.13%

Contract situation: Dallas’ four-year rookie contract has run out and he can be an unrestricted free agent March 13.

Kenny McIntosh

Age: 23

Snaps played in regular season: 0 (though he did play 13 on special teams)

Contract situation: Entering second season of four-year rookie deal in 2024, due to make $915,000, which is not guaranteed, and to count $937,713 against the cap.

Others on roster: Only Walker, Charbonnet and Dallas had carries as a running back for Seattle in 2024. Bryant Koback spent much of the season on the practice squad and was re-signed to a futures contract after the season.

FULLBACK

Nick Bellore

Age: 34

Snaps played in regular season: 4 on offense; 14 on defense; team-high 366 on special teams

Contract situation: Entering final season of two-year deal signed last March. Due to make $2.25 million and count $4 million against the salary cap. But the base salary is not guaranteed, and Seattle would save $2.85 million against the cap if he is released.

2023 in review

The Seahawks surprised some in April by using a second-round pick on a running back for a second straight year, taking Charbonnet 52nd overall out of UCLA after selecting Walker at 41st the year before.

But the goal was to give the Seahawks two starting-caliber players to ride out the inevitable injuries that occur in a 17-game season, something especially important to Pete Carroll, who remembered a few too many seasons of late that he felt had gone awry due to injuries at running back (most notably, 2019 when Seattle started 11-3 and held the No. 1 seed before losing Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny due to injury).

The plan worked in terms of providing the needed depth as Walker was able to start 15 games and Charbonnet the two that he missed due to injury, with those two accounting for 327 of Seattle’s 382 rushing attempts.

But the plan didn’t necessarily work in terms of giving Seattle the running attack it hoped to have — the Seahawks averaged 4.1 yards per carry, 16th in the NFL, a year after averaging 4.8, which had ranked seventh (though admittedly, that’s not all the fault of the running backs as offensive line injuries/issues played a role).

Walker saw his yards-per-carry drop from 4.6 to 4.1, and after rushing for 100 or more yards five times as a rookie had just one 100-yard rushing game in 2023, finishing with 905 overall on 219 attempts compared to 1,050 in 2022 on 228 attempts.

Charbonnet rushed for 462 yards on 108 attempts, and it’s worth remembering that his two starts came against two of the best defenses in the NFL — at home against the 49ers on Thanksgiving and the following Thursday at Dallas. Charbonnet had 107 yards on 33 carries in those two games.

But when used as a complementary back and in third-down/two-minute situations, Charbonnet was generally productive, such as when he had 53 yards on five carries to help lead Seattle to an October win over the Browns (a game in which Walker was dealing with a calf injury).

In the process, he essentially consigned Dallas to playing only when needed due to injury — Dallas’ snap counts, yards and carries were all the fewest of his career, though he remained valuable on special teams, serving as Seattle’s primary punt and kickoff returner.

That Walker and Charbonnet were both usually available meant Seattle didn’t need McIntosh, a seventh-round pick out of Georgia who wasn’t healthy until midseason due to a training camp knee injury and ended up never playing an offensive snap.

Bellore, meanwhile, is listed as both a fullback and linebacker, but his greatest value is on special teams, where he was again selected by teammates as a captain.

So, was Charbonnet worth a second-round pick?

He finished with the fourth-most yards of any rookie in the NFL in 2023 with two of those taken ahead of him drafted in the top 12 — Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson, who was taken eighth and had 976 yards; and Detroit’s Jahmyr Gibbs, who was taken 12th and had 945 yards. Also finishing ahead of Charbonnet was De’Von Achane, who was drafted 84th by Miami and finished with 800 yards.

But the bigger picture is also that Seattle now has a 1-2 running back punch of players who each has at least one year of experience on rookie contracts heading into 2024. Meaning, for now, the grade on that pick is not yet complete.

2024 preview

As detailed above, Walker, Charbonnet and McIntosh all remain on rookie contracts, so Seattle would appear to have no real need to do much to add to the position in the offseason.

The questions, then, revolve around Dallas and Bellore.

Dallas was ninth in the NFL in punt return average at 10.6 and his 25.9-yard average on kickoff returns was the best by a Seahawk in five years and would have ranked second in the NFL if he had enough attempts to qualify.

But Dallas might want to go somewhere he has a chance to play more.

Bellore has been a locker room favorite since coming to Seattle in 2019, and a core special-teamer throughout — his 11 special-teams tackles were second and earned him a Pro Bowl Games invite as an injury replacement.

But with a new regime in town, he might have to fight harder in camp to retain that spot in 2024 — especially turning 35 in May.

Seattle will inevitably sign some running backs as depth/potential practice squad options. But it looks like a year where the Seahawks shouldn’t have to invest heavily at running back.

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