Charles just wasn’t worth the cap hit the Chiefs would have to swallow in order to keep around any longer. The move saves the team about $6.2 million, a significant chunk in exchange for a player whose career had been derailed by injuries over the last two seasons.
At his peak, Charles was one of the league’s most impressive athletes. He was the fastest player on the field at any given time, but it never looked like was exerting too much energy. It was as if he was running at a normal pace while the other 21 players were stuck in mud.
Charles was also skinny for a running back. He did not look like your typical workhorse back, and the Chiefs made sure to limit his carries in order to prolong his career. But it didn’t matter. That’s just the nature of the running back position. It’s the most grueling position in the world’s most grueling sport. A select few remain productive past the dreaded age of 30 (the Adrian Petersons, Frank Gores and Curtis Martins of the world) but most do not. Charles is just the latest example of that unfortunate truth.
Anyone who owned Charles in fantasy knows how frustratingly cautious Kansas City’s coaching staff was with him early on. In just his second season in the league, the 2008 third-round pick led the NFL in yards-per-carry but was limited to the No. 2 role behind the aging Thomas Jones. It was easy to see who the more talented back was (Charles by a mile), but the team wasn’t convinced the second-year pro was ready to play the role of bell cow.
And even when he did finally win the starting job, the Chiefs did a good job of limiting his touches. Charles has carried the ball more than 250 times in a season only twice in his career. He’s never hit the 300-carry mark. Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott did so in his very first season in the league. Since 2010,
Charles has fewer carries than guys like Alfred Morris (who was drafted in 2012), Jonathan Stewart and Ryan Mathews.
If any star back was given the kind of reduced role you’d expect to lead to a longer career, it was Charles. But here we are. The three-time Pro Bowler is only 30 and his body is breaking down. He’s no longer the physical specimen he once was and could have a hard time even making a team this summer. Even the reduced pounding his body endured over the last eight seasons (along with two ACL tears) zapped him of that game-breaking speed that was so much fun to watch.
So if your kid is dreaming about playing in the NFL one day, just tell them to stop because no human should be playing football. And if that doesn’t work then make sure they play any position other than running back. Backup quarterbacks seem to have it pretty good these days.