Important Contract Decisions for the Redskins: Alfred Morris

Posted on July 09, 2014 by Bryan Frantz

Like just about every Skins fan, I adore the humble running machine affectionately known as "Alf."

He's not only been an elite running back during his two seasons in the NFL – second only to Adrian Peterson in rushing yards in that time – he's also incredibly likable. You all know he was a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University, and you've surely heard about his "Bentley"  by now, but there's plenty more to like about him. For example, during the madness following the 2013-14 season, Alf kept his cool when dealing with the media and gave the perfect "no comment" response to reporters (eighth paragraph).

And come on, you want to be friends with this guy. Just look at him!

But personal feelings aside, running back is somewhat of a dying position. Backs are still used regularly, but there is a league-wide shift to using them as a complement to the passing game rather than as a primary weapon. That said, it's hard to justify spending elite RB money these days (Peterson makes almost $12 million in base salary, the next four make $5-8 million – and that does not include bonuses and incentives).

The contract Morris has been playing on pays him an average salary of $555,775 – do the Redskins really want to give him the $8 million or so he'll command on the open market if he continues at this pace? Of course he deserves the money, but can the Redskins afford it when they have to pay so many other players?

This is definitely one of the more difficult contract decisions the Redskins will have to make in the next few years.

For one, he's a fan favorite with a great story and has done everything the team has asked of him and more thus far in his career. He caught a little heat for his fumbling problems last season (fumbled five times, lost four), but then again, everybody on the offense looked out of rhythm last year, Pierre Garcon excluded.

Morris has also been knocked a bit this offseason for not being a bigger factor in the passing game, but he's been working on that.

He's a workhorse back who has averaged 19 carries per game over his two seasons and registered at least 25 carries in five games so far, all this despite playing second fiddle to a running quarterback and the Redskins playing catch-up for most of last season. In his second season, he had 338 fewer yards than his rookie season, yet he was still just 12 rushing yards behind MVP candidate Jamaal Charles.

In fact, if you flipped Morris' two seasons and he produced his rookie numbers last season (1,613 rushing yards), he would have led the NFL in rushing.

Unfortunately, he does not get nearly the credit he deserves around the league – that'll happen when you come into the league the same year as Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Luke Kuechly and Nick Foles. The lack of recognition could be good for the Redskins in that it might keep his asking price down a bit, but general managers definitely know who Morris is, and he won't have any trouble finding a team to overpay for him (see Richardson, Trent for reference).The numbers he has put up thus far are nothing short of elite. So why would the Redskins even consider letting him go?

Consider Ray Rice. For four straight seasons (2009-12), he put up at least 1,100 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and he added a solid chunk more in the air. Then last season, he fell short of 1,000 all-purpose yards and dealt with injury concerns all year. To top it all off, there's that whole assault thing.

On the one hand, he's been a top-10 running back for the Ravens for the last half-decade and helped them win a Super Bowl.

On the other hand, he's coming off a season where he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry (for perspective, that's only 0.1 yards per carry more than the perpetually disappointing Trent Richardson), scored just four touchdowns and has a potential suspension looming. And he's going to cost the Ravens almost $9 million this season.

This is all to show that paying a running back elite money is a massive risk. I'm not saying Morris is a risk to be involved in any criminal issues – he seems like the last person who would cause off-field trouble. But Rice was Mr. Consistency on the field for four straight years, then only eclipsed 80 rushing yards once last season. Who's to say Morris won't experience a similar decline at some point?

And if you choose to let Morris walk and save that $7-10 million, think of the needs you could address. I'm not saying RGIII is Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but both quarterbacks have had great success in this league without ever having a dominant running game.

Not to mention, Morris had two years of great success running in an offense run by the Shanaclan – who hasn't had success running in that offense? A lot could change in a year under a different coaching staff, especially one that is known to favor the passing game. Plus, Morris was a sixth-round pick. There's always the chance you find another gem in somebody like Lache Seastrunk, or another future draft pick.

I love Alfred Morris, and I don't want to see him go. I would be ecstatic if he would take a frontloaded five-year, $25 million contract, because I don't think we'll see a serious decline in him anytime soon. But if he continues at this pace, he'll be able to find a lot more than that when he hits free agency, and Washington simply won't be able to afford him.

Stay tuned for more important roster decisions, coming soon.

Also, I'm on Twitter: @BFrantz202

next up:

Redskins Postion Breakdown: Tight End

July 09, 2014

What can we expect from the Redskins' Tight End position in 2014


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