Time to invest in some Rashaad Penny stock

A failed physical designation allows Carson to collect millions in injury protection benefits, but the big paydays he anticipated collecting in 2022 and 2023 are hypotheticals now. Carson’s exit opens a door for Rashaad Penny to sprint through. When Carson assumed the featured runner gig in 2018, he relegated the then-rookie to understudy status, and never relinquished that role as the Seahawks led the entire NFL in rushing that season.

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In Carson’s place, the Seahawks’ fifth-year back will finally start the 2022 season as Seattle’s undisputed No.1 pick, which may be a gift or a curse. On one hand, Penny was chewing up yards in 2021 as the No. 1 back. It’s been a long journey for Penny from first-round bust to potential starter in Week 1.

Unfortunately, he might see him facing stacked boxes as defenses shrug at the notion of Drew Lock making them pay through the air. Fortunately, Penny has fresh legs after only accumulating 161 carries in his first three seasons as a pro, but when we last saw him he was the NFL’s most effective running back. Between Weeks 16 and 18, Penny rushed 102 times for a league-leading 706 yards in that span.

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In his limited carries prior to last season, Penny averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry as a rookie in 2018, 5.7 in 2019, and 3.1 in 2020 when he was limited to 11 touches in three games. The last time we saw Penny as the starter for the entirety of a season was during his senior year at San Diego State when he made waves by rushing for over 2,200 yards, 23 touchdowns, and led the nation in missed tackles forced.

Carson’s retirement is the latest instance of a tailback getting dumped in the running back graveyard at the age of 27. Penny turns 27 next February and if he stumbles out of the gate, rookie Kenneth Walker will be nipping at his heels.

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Penny’s competition has even fresher legs than he does. After being an afterthought reserve in Wake Forest’s backfield, Walker led the NCAA in yards after contact and missed tackles forced last season after transferring to Michigan State. His top-end speed won’t wow anyone, but his patience as a runner, strength, and wiggle in tight space stand out on film. In his lone season as the starter, Walker earned the Doak Walker and Walter Camp Player of the Year awards.

Seattle’s selection of Walker with the 41st pick bothered the Seahawks faithful. The team had holes at defensive end, offensive line, and quarterback. While his draft capital was better saved for a different position, he individually has the tools to be a starter, but it may not happen in 2022. Penny is so good off the radar for so long, that most people forgot he can burst through arm tackles to make runs like this.

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Penny, who is currently signed to a one-year deal, will be playing for a bigger contract — likely looking for his only shot at a big payday — but Seattle will also explore what they have in Walker. Penny and Walker battling to be the featured back feels like déjà vu to 2018, when Carson emerged as the starter. The Seahawks hope for an equally prosperous outcome in 2022. For Seattle, Pete Carroll, and all running backs involved, this entire season is about determining a new hierarchy. In Carson’s absence, they have big shoes to fill.

Outrageously rich college football coaches are suddenly concerned about the amount of money pouring into the sport — when the players are getting it

Smart’s new deal isn’t the issue here, as we’ve seen coaching contracts skyrise recently. LSU’s Brian Kelly, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, and USC’s Lincoln Riley all have deals that pay them $9 million per year — at minimum. The problem is when these coaches insinuate that the amount that players are making is “getting out of hand,” or should be limited in some capacity as they’re allowed to keep getting raises.

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In 2014, Swinney threatened to quit if players ever got paid. Five years later, he signed a 10-year, $92 million deal and still hasn’t turned in his resignation letter. At SEC Media Day, Ole Miss head coach basically called NIL “legalized cheating.” And in May, Saban started a war of words with Fisher and Jackson State’s Deion Sanders as he accused them of “buying players,” as the coach who brings in arguably the best recruiting class in the country every year feels that NIL is giving schools a “competitive advantage” on recruiting.

Four years ago, Alabama announced that they were going to upgrade their athletic facilities with a 10-year, $600 million initiative. You can’t make this stuff up if you tried.

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And if NIL hasn’t exposed enough of the greed and selfishness some of these coaches embody, there are things coming down the pipeline that will reveal even more about these men. Pay close attention to how coaches will address conference realignment in the coming years, as California Governor Gavin Newsom is demanding that UCLA publicly explain its decision to join the Big Ten — which plays sports on the other side of the country. And just last week, the NCAA announced that the Division I Council has recommended getting rid of rules that restrict players from transferring multiple times which would open up the door for players to change schools and make the best business decision for them without sitting out a season — putting a bigger emphasis on the transfer portal.

There’s no telling what college sports will look like in the coming years, as “football money” is why things will change. By then, hopefully, the players will get a bigger piece of the pie. But if they don’t, it’ll probably be because their coaches haven’t advocated for that part of the system’s evolution.