Before the trade deadline of this wild Seahawks season, Pete Carroll was actually asked to confirm that Marshawn Lynch would not be dealt.
“Go ahead,” the coach said, smirking, that late October day. “You can go with that.”
Breaking news: Seattle’s indispensable running back won’t be dispensed.
It was a laughable thought even then, amid all the early-season tumult, including the Percy Harvin trade.
It sounds like the silliest thing ever now, with the Seahawks back in the NFC championship game and Lynch having led them with perhaps the best all-around season of his career.
Yet as ludicrous as a midseason Lynch trade would have been, there’s nothing funny about his uncertain future. The Seahawks have answered many questions about the franchise’s direction during their return to greatness this season. But there’s still no guarantee Lynch will be back, even if the Seahawks win a second straight Super Bowl.
Sunday could be Lynch’s last game at CenturyLink Field as a Seahawk.
And to that notion, it’s totally appropriate to respond by shouting like they do at college games when a young star is considering turning pro.
One more year! One more year!
Or perhaps a “Pay the Beast!” chant would be more accurate.
The Lynch-Seahawks relationship has gone from the perfect marriage to a complicated coexistence that isn’t expected to last much longer. Months ago, the national media started declaring Lynch would not return to the Seahawks next season. He still has one year left on his contract, but it isn’t likely that he would play out that final year.
Lynch staged a training camp holdout before this season began, and he returned upon receiving a $1.5 million pay bump in a reworked deal. If he plays out his contract, the final year of his contract is $7 million ($5 million base salary, plus $2 million roster bonus). His salary cap number would be $8.5 million (includes $1.5 million prorated signing bonus).
The Seahawks could save $7 million against the cap by cutting Lynch. Or they could sign Lynch to a new, multiyear contract, which is a risk for a running back who turns 29 in April. Or Beast Mode could retire, which he reportedly considered after last season’s Super Bowl run.
You never know what Lynch will do. He is as unpredictable as his hair is long. It’s on the Seahawks to make a shrewd decision, and they should do everything within reason to extend the Beast Mode era in Seattle.
General manager John Schneider should balk only if Lynch’s demands are outrageous, or his desire is gone, or there’s some major problem that only the organization knows. Barring those circumstances, it makes sense to see how much longer Father Time has allotted for Lynch to play in the NFL.
Lynch has earned it with his production: four straight seasons of at least 1,200 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns in 75 regular-season games.
He still influences winning: The Seahawks thrived after the Harvin trade because they streamlined the offense, featured Lynch and rebuilt the passing game to get the most out of teams trying to stop the run.
And the Seahawks aren’t ready to move on just yet. Backup Robert Turbin continues to improve, but Christine Michael still isn’t dependable, and it’s questionable whether the Seahawks’ next bell-cow running back is available in this NFL draft.
If the Seahawks had hit a wall as a team, it would be a good time to move on, try something different. But they’re two victories from a repeat. And if they do so, they’ll be set up to chase a historic third straight Super Bowl.
As much as we condition ourselves for NFL business and talk about teams needing to be dispassionate and cold-hearted, they also must be sensible. It would be perfect if the Seahawks could release Lynch, or any other player, just when their production starts to wane. But the Seahawks can’t anticipate Lynch will fall off when there’s ample evidence that there’s more left in his rugged body.
He has played in 75 of a possible 76 regular-season games in Seattle, including 58 in a row. Add the playoffs, and it’s 66 in a row. He has missed time in games with bouts of back tightness and stomach aches, but that’s impressive durability for a running back.
This season, Lynch ran for 1,306 yards, the second most in his career. His 17 touchdowns were a career high, as were his 37 catches for 367 yards.
Before the Seahawks traded for Lynch in October 2010, he thought he was headed to Green Bay. He entertained the idea, digging the chance to reunite with his former California teammate, Aaron Rodgers, and figuring his powerful running style would add a dimension the Packers’ pass-happy offense.
Anything outside of Buffalo would suffice, but the deeper the Bills went into trade discussions with several teams, the more Lynch realized two things Green Bay wasn’t: 1) A West Coast location close to his hometown, Oakland; 2) A city big enough for him to avoid standing out like he did in Buffalo.
By the end, Lynch was hoping Seattle would trade for him.
“It was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to him,” Delisa Lynch, his mother, once said of the trade.
It was the best thing that could’ve happened to the Seahawks. Lynch inspired their relentless style of play.
This can’t be the end.
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