Seahawks general manager John Schneider is eager to figure out a way for RB Marshawn Lynch to return next season. But first, Lynch, who turns 29 April 22, must decide if he wants to retire or continue playing in the NFL.
“He knows that he’s a heartbeat guy that we’d love to have back,” Schneider said Tuesday during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle morning show Brock and Salk. “Whether or not he wants to play next year, I can’t answer that. I don’t know if he knows at this juncture.”
Lynch is slated to make $7 million next season ($5 million in base salary and a $2 million roster bonus), though he’ll count $8.5 million against the salary cap because of $1.5 million in dead money.
In the week leading up Super Bowl XLIX, NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported the Seahawks were working on giving Lynch a raise and extension that would help soften his cap hit in 2015 and potentially keep him in Seattle until he retires.
Schneider wouldn’t get into the specifics of the negotiations Tuesday.
“Obviously we think he’s a helluva player,” he said. “We want to have him back. He knows that. His representatives know that. He knows that if he’s back he won’t be playing at the same number that he’s scheduled to make.”
Lynch’s body takes a beating because of his physical running style. To keep him from wearing down, the Seahawks often allow him to rest rather than practice during the regular season. But he’s played in 19 games, regular seasons and playoffs, each of the last two seasons, and is approaching the age-30 benchmark that usually signals an NFL running back’s career is nearing or at an end.
“It’s hard for these guys,” Schneider said. “It’s been a long season. We’ve played a lot of football these last two years. Especially the way this guy runs the ball. It’s taxing on his body, and so he has to reset himself and get in that mind frame of, ‘OK, I’m ready to get moving here again and get prepared for another season of this,’ so obviously we’d like to have that decision as quickly as we could. So we can move forward.”
Schneider also explained why the Seahawks didn’t budge much when Lynch, upset about his contract, held out of last year’s training camp. They did, however, improve his salary structure so he made $6.5 this season instead of $5 million, by guaranteeing money previously labeled bonuses, and he eventually reported.
“That was just all about (avoiding) precedent. It wasn’t about whether we thought he was the No. 1 back or the No. 4 back or the No. 7 back,” Schneider said. “It didn’t have anything to do with that. It just had to do with precedent.”
Lynch signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the Seahawks in 2012. Schneider wasn’t willing to renegotiate halfway through it.
“If we re-did a contract for Marshawn, everybody would be standing outside my office looking for a new contract whenever they wanted,” he said. “He knows that, but he also knows that he’s a huge part of what we’re doing. He’s just extremely important to what we have going on here and moving forward, the decisions that we make throughout this offseason.”
The Seahawks reportedly are in talks to sign QB Russell Wilson to a mega-deal. Schneider hinted Tuesday Wilson might be willing to get creative in structuring his contract so Seattle can sign better players around him. CB Byron Maxwell is an unrestricted free agent, along with LG James Carpenter, DT Kevin Williams and a host of others. There is speculation that Seattle is trying to lock up MLB Bobby Wagner to a long-term extension as well.
Whether Lynch agrees to an extension could help determine who stays and who goes.
This season, the Oakland native rushed for 1,306 yards (4.7 average) and 13 touchdowns. He also had 37 catches and set career highs in receiving yards (367) and touchdown receptions (four). The 17 all-purpose scores led all NFL running backs.
Schneider hopes Lynch, who’s contemplated retiring before, can quickly come to a decision about his future. But he understands that it may take time.
“This is a taxing thing on these guys,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of football the last two years. It may not happen overnight.”