BY Art Thiel 04:00PM 02/16/2015

Thiel: Lynch can’t be about NFL action forever

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.

Marshawn Lynch, on his way to a 79-yard touchdown run against Arizona, is less certain about his career course. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

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.

 

 


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    Good piece, Art. I just don’t see Marshawn retiring right now. He spent Super Bowl Week launching his “Beast Mode” brand of clothing and it doesn’t make financial sense to stop doing what keeps him in the spotlight right now. I’d say a one-year, $10 million contract is in the offing…no long-term commitment for the team, a nice haul over 12 months for a player who’s earned it. The Seahawks are built for the run offensively but there’s no way they do what they’ve done without Lynch. Neither Turbin nor Michael bring to the table what Marshawn does because he’s been an almost singular hybrid of power, finesse and speed…RBs like that don’t grown on trees.

    • art thiel

      Fair points, Jamo — it doesn’t make financial sense, and $10 million is serious money. But we don’t know if Lynch at 28 wakes up feeling 68. Nor do we know what Seahawks doctors know about Lynch’s long-term health issues. They’ll never say for all the obvious reasons. The risk-reward in this situation is hard.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    The whole Lynch saga will play out and he will be packing the ball for
    them this fall.He is home in Oaktown repairing physically. Come about
    4th of July his body will tell him it’s “Ready for some action, Boss”.
    The lure of money will whisper in his ear that 8~10 million for
    16 games and more money for play offs is impossible to pass up for what he considers(to be) the most proficient back in the NFL.
    He will mutter not yet Turbin/Michael and off to training camp he will go.
    Real Rob reported he speculates Lynch will be playing for Seattle come Sept.
    You can only imagine what the real conversation was when they talked.
    “Man,I’m just having fun watching the Media snap into a shark frenzy
    whenever the word Marshawn is dropped.I”m good ,Boss.I’m just head
    tripping them and doing the Psychological dance with Seattle Mgmt. You know front office is still in my doghouse for not giving me what I asked(holdout) last training camp.Making their underwear tight is kinda fun and it is the Oakland way.
    But I don’t need the money. I COULD retire.” Incessant laughter ensues.
    I’m sure officially he told Mike my stance is that last sentence and added We will see.
    I think you will see Lynch cashing paychecks with the Hawk logo on them come September.

  • huskydwj

    Art – I do agree that it seems premature for Beast Mode to hang them up, as Radioguy stated below, he’s just successfully launched his Beast Mode offerings. I definitely don’t see him playing ball elsewhere – he seems pretty tight with this locker room. I think his health is the real key. However, he was pretty beat up after last season, and even though he missed a lot of training camp, he came in in stellar shape. I really think that combined with his growth during his NFL tenure, he was better than he’s ever been this year.

    Gut feel tells me that he’s good for a solid three more years at the same level he was this year. I can see an extension of two years and a decent bump, as expected.

    While Schnieder may be playing a bit of politics, for whatever reason, there is no denying that the Beast beats the heart of the Seahawks like a drum. Losing him after what has to be the biggest year for him connecting with the public would be a huge blow to the teams appeal.

  • Matt712

    I think the speculation is interesting that, on one hand, Lynch may be ‘mulling retirement’ due to wear & tear while, on the other hand, he could be seeking a three-year deal. Seems a terrible strategy to negotiate on longevity.

    Sure, there is always the possibility of some damn-fool other team breaking the bank for him, but the current market and value perception of an NFL running back runs contrary to that. 2,400-some hardass carries (as opposed to say DeMarco Murray’s 1,100 or AP sitting out a year) makes it doubtful he’s offered a multi-year bonanza anywhere else. Therefore, my gut tells me, if Marshawn chooses to play, he will play for the Seahawks. And if he’s seriously considering retirement, then a one year jam-packed deal could be just the ticket. Yeah… The Beast Mode Farewell Tour!

    I’m beginning to realize just what a marketing genius he is.

    • John M

      Matt, agreed, I think he’ll be back for one more with the Hawks. He’s smart enough to know (I think) if they’re willing to give him 10M for next season (I think that’s awfully high) that’s the mother lode and he can go out in style . . .

  • Jamo57

    As much of a loss as it would be for the Hawks and the 12s, I’d much rather see Marshawn hang it up a year or two early as opposed to seeing him in a few years broken down with chronic physical or cognitive ailments. I hope he’s sincerely taking an inventory of his health and weighing the risk/reward of playing on.

    I’ve always respected Barry Sanders and Jim Brown for hanging it up on their own terms and would rather see Marshawn in 10 or 20 years with their legacy as opposed to being an Earl Campbell or Tony Dorsett.

    I can’t say I’m ready to see him go but it’s about him, not me or any of us.

    • art thiel

      You’re right, Jamo — seems every week we read another story of a debilitated ex-NFL player. Lynch and all NFL players are entertainers replaceable by younger entertainers. Only Lynch can look out for himself.

  • NT

    The glass ball I’m looking in is perhaps wishful…but I see Lynch giving Seattle two years and then retiring. He is at his peak of popularity and will be set for life financially to say the least. He also seems to really love the game. Obviously if he is plagued with injuries it’s another story…but given rest and time to heal properly there is a good chance his body will bounce back and he’ll be a formidable RB for a few more years. I think 2 years is a good target for him…and then he should do himself a favor and get out..hopefully in good health.

    • art thiel

      Could be. I’m fairly sure he’s good for 2015, but after that is unknowable. And all you have to do is read the Tony Dorsett story from last week to know another aspect of the story.

  • Kevin Lynch

    I agree with others that Marshawn will play next year and I agree with Art that he will play elsewhere. Just a gut feeling that his new contract and Russell’s new one are not going to fit in the same season. Marshawn’s brand is so significant now that he could do really well in a large metropolitan area like New York. That would be a killer trade for the locals to swallow but the team would get recompense. If Lynch sits out a season to heal then they get none. Am I right?

  • Bruce McDermott

    It’s been reported (ProFootballTalk)that retiring now would require Lynch to pay back a prorated portion of his last signing bonus–about $1.5 million. I don’t see that happening. Not sure whether the Hawks can simply agree not to insist on that, or in fact whether that is a precedent they would want to set, no matter what they think about Lynch. If that is true, they trade him, or he comes back.

  • Topcatone

    We need Lynch for one more year. Turbin is actually improving. Our biggest need is for better quality receivers while Russell is in his prime. I personally like our receivers, but the loss of Tate (and Zach Miller) really hurt in 2014.

    • John M

      Every off-season it’s this, “We need more receivers” stuff. No one seems to remember a couple guys called Richardson and Norwood. They were pretty high picks. They’ve been through their maiden training and should be ready to rock. We have enough receivers. We need a better O-line . . .

  • ll9956

    It would seem that the majority here predict Lynch will be in a Hawks uniform next season and I side with that opinion. I think he loves the accolades he gets from all sides, even from opponents. I believe that when he pictures himself out to pasture next year, that image is not attractive to him. He’s young enough that if the doctors tell him he hasn’t suffered any long-term physical damage so far and if his young body heals over the next couple of months, he’ll opt to return. I don’t see him making a quick decision, deciding to let the Hawks’ front office stew for awhile. But when it comes time for him to decide, I think he’ll be a Hawk next year. At least I hope that’s how it plays out.

  • 3 Lions

    The Beast just wants to get paid.
    When will he ever have the opportunity to make this kind of money again?
    It is all predicated on him continuing to play & there is no better place for him than here.