RICHMOND — As someone who has run for more yards than anyone else over the last three years, Alfred Morris should be one of the top running backs available when his rookie contract expires after this season.
The Washington Redskins let Morris may not even let him reach that point.
According to people familiar with the situation, the Redskins have begun talks with Morris’ representatives about a potential contract extension, though those discussions are still in the preliminary stage and no deal is imminent.
“I think we’re very lucky to have a guy like Alfred Morris,” general manager Scot McCloughan said on Sunday. “We’d love to have him be [with the Redskins] for the rest of his life and his career, but, you know, things go on, and it takes some time, but the whole organization respects Alfred very much.”
Morris has rushed for just shy of 4,000 yards and 28 total touchdowns during his first three seasons. He had an eye-opening rookie year, when he rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, then followed up with 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 and 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Those numbers dipped last year, when Morris averaged 4.1 yards per carry — still one of the better marks in the league, but the fewest in his three seasons. He did, however, cut down on his fumbles, and he caught 17 passes, nearly matching his total from his first two years, in first-year coach Jay Gruden’s offense.
He would certainly receive a significant pay raise over his rookie deal, which, as a sixth-round draft pick in 2012, was a fairly standard four-year, $2.223 million contract with a $124,000 signing bonus. Because of his heavy workload, Morris reached an escalator clause that raised his base salary for the upcoming season from $660,000 to $1.542 million.
A new contract would likely increase his income significantly. DeMarco Murray signed a five-year, $42 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in March that included $21 million guaranteed, while LeSean McCoy signed a five-year, $40 million deal after he was traded to the Buffalo Bills that included $26.5 million guaranteed and a $13 million signing bonus.
The New Orleans Saints handed out two contracts to running backs in March. Mark Ingram stayed with the team on a four-year, $16 million contract with $7.6 million guaranteed, while he was joined by C.J. Spiller, who received a four-year, $16 million contract that included $9 million guaranteed.
Where Morris ranks on that spectrum, if at all, will likely be determined from how he plays this season. Though he has thrived in the Redskins’ zone-running scheme, the offense will incorporate additional power-running principles under new offensive line coach and running game coordinator Bill Callahan.
“Alfred just goes about his business every day,” Gruden said Sunday. “He’s been excellent with blitz pickups. He’s catching the ball out of the backfield so much better. He doesn’t say a peep. He just comes to work every day, and you love to have guys like that. At the running back position, that’s pretty rare for a running back not to complain about getting the ball. Sometimes, he probably should. Overall, man, I just love what Alfred is all about both on and off the field. I’m very happy to have him.”