Evaluating Lynch Deal

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Shaun Alexander was arguably the best running back in Seahawks history. He owns many of the records and was the team’s only league MVP. Many Seahawks fans would tell you he could have had twice the yards he ended up with if he ran with more courage. He was a putrid receiver, a bad pass blocker, but was a model citizen off-the-field. When the Seahawks acquired Marshawn Lynch yesterday, they may have added the anti-Shaun.

Lynch is known as as much for his off-field shenanigans as his on-field production. The quick recap includes a concealed gun possession charge and a hit-and-run (the person suffered a bruise and a scrape) that ended with a  small fine. Concerning signs, for sure, but at least he’s no Ben Roethlisberger.

On the field, he looks and plays a lot like a young Edgerrin James. Watch this highlight video from his 2008 Pro Bowl season, and let me know if you see it as well (the music is bad enough that muting might be warranted). Besides the dreads, Lynch mirrors James as a powerful runner and reliable receiver. He has more wiggle than James ever did, and I can’t speak for his pass blocking ability. I would be surprised if a player who likes contact as much as Lynch does, was unwilling or unable to pass block. I was able to watch Lynch play a little two weeks ago against New England, and he was impressive. One guy was usually not enough to bring him down. He featured a nasty spin move that left a Patriot grasping for Lynch’s jersey as he sped by him for five more yards.

There may not be a better complimentary back in the NFL for Justin Forsett, than Marshawn Lynch. Both are spirited runners, good receivers and good blockers. Forsett is small and shifty. Lynch is big and intimidating. Beyond their yin and yang running styles, they are bosom buddies from their time at Cal. Forsett is the bible-studying model citizen off the field, and Lynch could use a few more friends like that.

Lynch makes the Seahawks better immediately. As I mentioned in the recap of the Rams game, Forsett has not been playing his best ball thus far. He left a lot of yards on the field Sunday, yards that Lynch would have almost certainly got. If Forsett had been maximizing his chances, I’m not certain this trade would have been made.

A fourth-round pick is a high price to pay for any player when you are rebuilding your franchise’s talent base. Would we get someone of Lynch’s caliber in the 4th round of the 2011 draft? Probably not. However, the 4th round draft choice would be with the team for at least a few seasons if he panned out. Lynch is here until the end of the 2011 season (which might be locked out or shortened). I tend to only be in favor of trading 4th round and better draft choices for players that are part of a championship run. In other words, I’ll be more supportive of this deal if Lynch is still on the team when it is ready to contend. Giving up picks for short-term gain when you are not in the championship window is unwise in any sport.

Given that Josh Wilson was healthy and on the inactive list for the Ravens game this weekend, it appears unlikely that conditional 5th we received will become a 4th. That leaves the Seahawks without a 3rd or 4th in the critical 2011 draft. Those are choices that could be packaged to move up in the 1st if we want to get our franchise QB, or featured pass rusher. As much as I love what Lynch brings to the team, running back is not the position I worry about when trying to assemble a Super Bowl roster.

The move is done, though, and Lynch will make it easy to forget about next year’s draft while watching him bowl over linebackers each week. His addition, combined with Okung’s return to the lineup, and a bye week to work on the passing game could lead to a markedly improved offense when we next see the Seahawks take the field. This town loves tough runners, and Lynch is looking for a new beginning. Anything short of a love affair would be a surprise, and somewhere, Shaun Alexander will grasp his MVP trophy shaking his head.

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