Marshawn Lynch may play again, but not for Seahawks
A little less than a year ago, I wrote that running back Marshawn Lynch had played his last game for the Seahawks despite a variety of rumors arguing otherwise. Today, amid a growing number of Lynch-related rumors floating around the league, I'd like to double-down on that argument.
Lynch may very well return to the NFL, but he'll never again play for Seattle.
For a while there it looked like all we'd see from the former Seahawks star was the occasional Skittles-related publicity stunt or entertaining television appearance, perhaps punctuated by a sideline visit with his former teammates.
That changed Friday, however, when ESPN and other outlets began reporting there was strong mutual interest between the 30-year-old running back and his hometown Oakland Raiders just over a year after he announced his retirement with a tweet suggesting he'd hung his cleats up for good. The initial rumor naturally led to discussion of a bevy of complicating factors, the biggest of which has to do with the fact that Seattle still holds Lynch's contractual rights after "Beast Mode" signed a three-year extension prior to the 2015 season. If Lynch's rights still belong to Seattle, some argued, why would the Seahawks let him just walk away to Oakland?
There's one big reason: Despite reports that Seattle would like to recoup something in exchange for Lynch, his enormous cap number in relation to the Seahawks' available cap space negates any leverage the team would have when trying to deal him.
If Lynch indeed decided to submit paperwork to the NFL in order to come off Seattle's reserve/retired list, the remaining two years of his three-year, $24 million contract extension immediately go back on the Seahawks' books. That's problematic for Seattle, which has a little less than $12 million cap space for next season according to Spotrac, and that's before Friday's signings of cornerback DeShawn Shead, linebacker Arthur Brown and guard Oday Aboushi have been calculated. Lynch's $9 million base salary would all but eliminate any of the team's cap space unless and until they terminated the contract.
That's why ESPN's Sheil Kapadia and others correctly argued it would be much more likely the Seahawks cut Lynch rather than trade him.
There's also the matter of the $7.5 million signing bonus from Lynch's 2015 extension. Seahawks general manager John Schneider could have gone after $5 million of that bonus money after Lynch retired just one year into the three-year deal, as NFL signing bonuses are pro-rated over the length of the contract. He did not.
If, however, Lynch returned to the league with the sole purpose of playing for the Raiders, Schneider could and would likely go after at least some of that bonus money, which means unless Lynch signs for more than $5 million in 2017 -- no sure thing --he might actually lose money by coming back.
Forget the option of Seattle actually keeping Lynch around for the 2017 season. The team appears to be set at running back after adding former Green Bay Packers Pro Bowler Eddie Lacy to a backfield that already included youngsters Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins this offseason. Even if they wanted to see how much Lynch had left, they wouldn't do it at his current price.
All of this assumes Lynch actually is considering a comeback, but there seems to be enough smoke there to suggest a fire. The Huffington Post's Jordan Schultz reported Lynch met with the Seahawks on Thursday to ask for his release, but that was contradicted almost immediately by several other reports, including one from NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. On Monday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport cited a source that called the prospect of Lynch's return with the intent purpose of playing for Oakland and Oakland alone, "realer than it's ever been."
Of course, this could be another publicity stunt designed to get Lynch, his "Beast Mode" brand or his community foundation back in the public eye after a few quiet months rather than a desire to get back on the playing field. Maybe it's a combination of all three motivations. Whatever the case, sources -- most likely Lynch's agent Doug Hendrickson -- are doing a lot of outreach of late, with one telling TheMMQB's Peter King Lynch, "really wants to play for the Raiders."
"He also wants to do good things for his foundation in the area," the source told King. "This is a great chance to accomplish both things."
There's also a chance this whole thing is a way for the Raiders to lower the asking price for veteran running back Adrian Peterson, who reportedly named Oakland as one of his preferred destinations in free agency.
Whether or not Lynch's rumored interest in returning to the gridiron is accurate, don't expect to see Lynch carrying the ball in a Seahawks uniform ever again.
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