Except for the May parade through downtown Seattle, during which he entertained hundreds of thousands of gawkers by tossing bags of Skittles from the hood of a vehicle, Marshawn Lynch has had nothing to do with the Seahawks since their Super Bowl rout of the Denver Broncos.
He predictably missed a series of organized team activities at the Virginia Mason Atheltic Center that ended Thursday. Before that, he spurned a visit with his teammates to the White House, where President Obama commented on his no-show.
When the Seahawks gather for a mini-camp next week at the VMAC, Lynch is expected to miss the three-day session even though his appearance is mandatory. If Lynch skips, the Seahawks can – and likely will – fine him up to $70,000, adding to the dissatisfaction he already harbors.
Reportedly unfulfilled with a contract he signed in 2011, after he arrived in Seattle in a trade from Buffalo, Lynch presumably seeks more than the $5 million he is scheduled to earn in 2014 and the $5.5 million due him in 2015. Specifically, he wants more cash now rather than later – because there probably isn’t going to be a later.
If Lynch, now days past his 28th birthday, honors the deal, he will be 30 the next time he is free to negotiate an extension. He is more likely to become a salary cap casualty before that occurs, meaning that the $5.5 million due him in 2015 might as well not exist.
Things may not get that far. NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that a source close to him said that Lynch could be considering retirement. The source told Rapoport that Lynch has saved his money and that “retirement thought is real” and “I could see him walking away.”
If these are Lynch’s sentiments, they sound like a smokescreen. On the other hand, this is Marshawn Lynch we’re talking about. The guy could do anything.
Lynch has averaged 300 carries and 1,363 yards per season during his time with the Seahawks, with a high of 315/1,590 in 2012. Lynch has 1,753 carries through age 27, ranking 20th on a list of 26 players with at least 1,700 through that age.
Of the 23 whose careers are in the books, 15 never had a 1,300-yard season after turning 30 – seven never had a 1,000-yard year after 30 — and only three had two or more. The list:
|Walter Payton||Bears||4||Two 1,500-yard seasons (1984-85) after 30|
|Curtis Martin||Jets||2||1,697 yards and 12 TDs at age 31 in 2004|
|Emmitt Smith||Cowboys||2||1,397 yards and 11 TDs at age 30 in 1999|
|Barry Sanders||Lions||1||1,491 yards and 4 TDs at age 30 in 1998|
|Corey Dillon||Patriots||1||1,635 yards and 12 TDs at age 30 in 2004|
Put another way, for Lynch to play out his current deal and then convince the Seahawks that he will remain an elite back after 30, he will have to convince them he has the staying power of the men on the above list and won’t join Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jerome Bettis, Eddie George, Franco Harris and Shaun Alexander, all of whom, for one reason or another, started to wink out at 30.
That won’t be an easy sell.
The Seahawks are well aware of the expiration dates for running backs – and so is Lynch, which is why he wants his money now before his comes due.
But should the Seahawks meet his demands? And given the salary-cap restrictions, can they meet them?
The Seahawks parted ways in March with several significant players, WR Golden Tate, DEs Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, and OT Breno Giacomini among them, in order to free up money to pay Richard Sherman $56 million over four years and S Earl Thomas $40 million over four. And they have QB Russell Wilson at $20 million per year coming up in the next year.
But in the short term, can the Seahawks afford not to pay? Their offense runs through Lynch, who has not only produced more touchdowns (39) and 100-yard rushing games (19) since 2011 than any NFL back, but is the best runner in the league in yards gained after contact.
Any successful defense of the Super Bowl would have to involve another productive year out of Lynch — or a change in offensive philosophy, or a move to a “running back by committee” approach suggested recently by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who quickly backed off that comment.
But renegotiating Lynch’s deal now, if it’s even possible, would set a precedent the Seahawks do not want to set. So, what to do?