Born in Longview, Texas in 1988, Chris Ivory played for three years at Washington State from 2006-2008, witnessing first-hand the decline of the program from Bill Doba to Paul Wulff. In Ivory’s last season with the team, and Wulff’s first, he rushed 28 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. He received less playing time than Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz, and Chantz Staden.
It was not a good sign for things to come for Wulff and his 2-11 Cougars that the best back on the roster was so low on the depth chart, or a good sign for Ivory he was dismissed in August of 2009 after being accused of assaulting another student and transferred to Tiffin.
Ivory’s college career had few highlights, but he did have over 100 yards in 2007 in games against Stanford and Washington, and scouts saw enough talent to put him on the radar for the 2010 draft. Ivory ran a 4.48 at his pro day and he signed as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints, following a college career that included injuries, arrests, a dismissal, and just 534 career rushing yards with the Cougars in three years.
He wasted no time making an impact for the Saints, leading them with 716 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie that year following injuries to Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. He had 158 yards against the Bucs, 117 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals, and 99 yards + a TD in a 34-19 win over the Seahawks. When Seattle upset New Orleans in the 2010 wild card round, Ivory was on the sidelines with a season-ending foot injury.
Not much has changed for Ivory on the injury front. He played in 12 games as a rookie, then just 12 games total from 2011-2012. He was traded to the NY Jets in April of 2013 for a fourth round pick, joining Rex Ryan’s offense two years after Ryan parted ways with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, now the offensive coordinator for the Seahawks. In his first season with the Jets, Ivory stayed healthy and led the team with 833 yards but only three touchdowns, with everyone making the most they could out of an offense manned by rookie quarterback Geno Smith. The next season, they flopped to 4-12, but Ivory carved 821 yards and six touchdowns out of what material he was given. He also played his first 16-game season.
In 2015, Ivory had a career-high 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns in New York, being named to the Pro Bowl. He also caught 30 of 37 targets, expanding his game after catching just five passes total in his first four seasons.
He was then rewarded by a salary cap system that sometimes forces teams to overpay for free agents because they know they have a certain amount to spend and young teams must woo players from better situations by handing out pieces of paper with large dollar amounts attached. Ivory’s dollar amount was $32 million over five years from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The contract was semi-justifiable at the time because of what I just said regarding teams overpaying, but much sillier in hindsight because “How did Chris Ivory become one of the highest-paid players in football at his position?”
As of today, Ivory is set to be the second-highest paid back in the league in 2018. That is not going to happen.
In two seasons with the Jaguars, Ivory has rushed 229 times for 821 yards and four touchdowns. He’s played through injuries, missed games, and also just been replaced on the depth chart by second round pick T.J. Yeldon and fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette. He had one carry for two yards during their entire three-game playoff run.
Now Seattle may be a team looking to give Ivory a (fifth?) chance.
The Seahawks are not likely to retain Eddie Lacy, and Thomas Rawls is also questionable to return after a miserable 2017. The team is left with Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise as the two most likely backs to compete for carries in Seattle next season, but it’ll come as no surprise if the Seahawks add a “big name” running back to potentially shoulder the load either as a starter or a second option. Being able to find this player on the market rather than in the draft will really help Seattle’s ability to spend their early(ish) picks on other positions and not one so replaceable as running back.
Ivory could be the ideal candidate to do that.
Schottenheimer’s history with the Jets and St. Louis Rams clearly suggests that he likes veteran backs and second chances. He did so with LaDainian Tomlinson in New York from 2010-2011, after previously turning Thomas Jones into a three-time 1,100-yard back, starting when he was 29. He also coached Steven Jackson with the Rams when he was 29, helping him get his final 1,000-yard season before he left to join the Atlanta Falcons.
Ivory has three years left on his deal, but is set to count $6.9 million against the cap in 2018, with a $3.7 million savings if released or traded. When released, it would not be surprising to me if he signed for one year and $1 million, non-guaranteed. He is 30, he is oft-injured, and he has had almost no significant production in the last two years. However, he also has just 1,112 career carries because of that and he’d be a no-risk option who would give Seattle the veteran snaps they need in July and August to shepherd in the new batch.
Then maybe he just becomes the number one back in what is certain to be a backfield-by-committee.
He had at least one pretty good endorsement back in 2015:
“He’s always been effective, in my opinion, and it’s going well and they keep feeding him,” said New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose defense will face Ivory on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. “I’d say he’s a guy who gets stronger as the game goes on. … He’s hard to tackle in the first quarter. He’s hard to tackle in the fourth quarter.”