Marshawn Lynch has had eight remarkable years in the NFL. But the Seahawks are all ’bout that future. Don’t be surprised if the Beast moves on.
Knowing the Seahawks front office, they have already plotted the consequences of playing without RB Marshawn Lynch in 2015, then 2016 and 2017. If GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll think that neither Robert Turbin nor Christine Michael are adequate replacements, the bosses have identified free agents and draftees that come closer to Lynch’s ferocity and reliability.
What told me they were preparing for the need to move on was Schneider’s appearances on sports talk radio last week saying how wonderful Lynch has been and how eager the Seahawks are to at least pay him more money in 2015.
That is called getting ahead of the story. The Seahawks don’t want to be chasing behind the public version of events inevitably put out by Lynch’s representatives, because the front office doesn’t want to be seen as the bad guy if Beast Mode isn’t with the Seahawks in September.
“Obviously, we think he’s a hell of a player,” Schneider told ESPN 710 Seattle. “We want to have him back. He knows that. His representatives know that. He knows that if he’s back he’s not going to be playing at the same number he’s scheduled to make. He’s a guy that is a heartbeat guy that we’d love to have back.
“Now, whether or not he wants to play next year, I can’t answer that. I don’t know if he knows at this juncture.”
As the 12s know, Lynch has been bothered some by chronic back problems. Obviously the ailment didn’t get stop him from getting career highs in touchdowns (17) and receiving yards (367) and second-most rushing yards (1,306) in 2014. Nor did it seem to bother him when, for no other reason than showing off after his Beast Quake 2.0 run against Arizona, he voluntarily slammed into the end zone on his back while grabbing his crotch.
As new defensive coordinator Kris Richard put it to me at the Super Bowl, “Pain is a decision.”
If that’s true, and doctors tell Lynch that he is not at serious risk for chronic, long-term debilitation, then coming back in 2015 is not as difficult physically as Schneider made it seem.
Nevertheless, after eight years of NFL punishment, given and taken, the case for calling it quits at 29 is reasonable — so reasonable that Schneider publicly made Lynch’s case for him.
“I think he needs to find out where he’s at,” Schneider said. “It’s hard for these guys. It’s a long season. We’ve played a lot of football these last two years, and especially the way this guy runs the ball, it’s taxing on his body. 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.’ ”
Empathy for Lynch’s position is a good way of taking away some of the leverage that the threat of retirement offers him. Schneider can’t appear to want Lynch more than Lynch wants a raise from his scheduled $5 million base for 2015, to $10 million — the figure that was reported from anonymous sources on Super Bowl Sunday as the club’s potential offer.
From the Seahawks perspective, $10 million for 2015 is doable, since they are $23 million under the $140 million salary cap. Less doable is what Lynch could want to continue playing — an extension of at least one year beyond 2015, and probably two or three years, loaded with guaranteed money.
The Seahawks know there are teams out there that would give Lynch such a deal, even though, as colleague Steve Rudman pointed out, the number of backs who have had 1,300-yard years beyond the age-29 season is minimal.
Most NFL teams are often about the moment, especially because championship windows in the free-agency era close so quickly (see Broncos, Denver; 49ers, Santa Clara). The Seahawks are trying to be different, trying to be consistently in contention for a sustained period.
They understand the Belichick Principle: It is always better to part with a player a year early than a year late. They also understand that they have built enough credibility internally and externally to remove a premium player (Percy Harvin) and withstand the firestorm of controversy.
We all know Lynch is far more central to Seahawks success than Harvin, but based on the above presumptions, and the fact that Lynch’s career is nearer to the end than to the beginning, it seems reasonable that the Seahawks have a point beyond which they will not go to keep Lynch. And that point might come sooner and more easily than some Seahawks fans think.
As to what Lynch thinks, hell, who knows? Former FB Michael Robinson, the teammate closest to Lynch during his play days, told ESPN 710 Seattle thinks he’ll be back with Seattle. But it’s only a guess based on conventional NFL wisdom, a tool Lynch uses sparingly.
“As I talk Marshawn all the time, I tell him, ‘Man, your ability is such a gift to this game,’” he said. “‘Don’t give it up. You’re in your prime. You’re not 30 yet. You’re still a young man. Don’t give it up.’ But he is beat up, so we’ll see.
“My bet would be that he plays next year in Seattle. I don’t think Marshawn knows yet. I don’t know what the timeline is. It’s probably going to be a feel thing and we’ll just see like everybody else.”
My bet is that Lynch moves on. Not a strong conviction, because no one but him truly knows his body’s condition. We do know that that body is governed by a strong will that puts a priority on independent thought, which is often contrary to the prevailing wisdom.
As much sense as it may make to many who see Lynch flourishing in a successful system tailored to his skills, under a coach who accepts his eccentric ways, Lynch might think he can force Seattle to move him to a team desperate enough to make him their future for several years.
Or he may decide he is no longer ’bout that action. And he’s the boss of that.