The most violent and beloved runner in Seahawks history is hurting. Marshawn Lynch held out of training camp last season due to a dispute about compensation, but his health may be the deciding factor in determining whether he returns for another year. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been vocal about their desire to have Lynch back. Multiple sources have indicated they are prepared to double his salary. It may not be enough, and Seahawks fans should consider that it may be best for both sides for Lynch to hang up his cleats.
Few things in football are more compelling than watching Lynch punish defenders. He is an inspiration to fans, players and coaches. He is devastating to opponents. The idea of losing that from an offense that struggled at times last season causes panic in most fans. Take a moment to consider the full picture and that feeling should subside.
Banner free agent class
There are those that are arguing this is the best free agent class in NFL history. It is easy to see why with depth at key positions like defensive tackle, defensive end, tight end, and wide receiver. Seattle just so happens to have needs are the positions where rare talent is available. Groups like this do not come around very often, and the Seahawks ability to dip into this pool of players is greatly impacted by the money earmarked for Lynch.
No guarantee next season will resemble previous seasons
Assume that Lynch does return. There is a very real chance that he is not able to overcome the back injury that has plagued him the past few seasons. It definitely impacted him more this year than last year.
Nobody wants to see the Beast tamed and broken
Forget the effect to the offense. Think of what it would be like to see this proud warrior go out on a down note. This is a player who should leave the game on his terms at the top of his position.
The assumption that everything will just continue as it has should Lynch resign is naive. Durability and degradation of running backs near the age of 30 is well documented in the NFL. Seattle was in a similar position with a far less physical runner in Shaun Alexander, and chose to give him big money. That was money poorly spent on a player who never approached his past production.
Time is now to transition the offense
Robert Turbin is a free agent after next season. Christine Michael has only two years left on his deal. Even if Lynch did return and make it through the year, the chances that he would be back in 2016 are very slim. That would leave Seattle without anywhere close to enough information about how Turbin and Michael are worth in this offense.
There are also some decent runners in this draft who the team could learn about this year to help inform their future plans. Running back is one position that can have immediate impact as a rookie. The team would be hard-pressed to keep four true running backs on the roster if Lynch returns, so a player who could help after he leaves would be let go. That feels short-sighted for a team that prides itself on a win forever long view of roster management.
Russell Wilson needs to improve the team’s ability to be efficient in the passing game with, or without, Lynch in the backfield. Expecting to be a championship team again that relies so heavily on the run is not realistic. That is not to suggest a major shift away from being a run-first team. Getting back to the formula from 2012 and 2013 would be an improvement. There would be less of a safety net for that without Lynch, but that might help coaches and players focus on the task at hand even more.
Tom Cable knows running
For all the fair criticism Tom Cable receives for his tendency to field poor pass blocking lines, there is no doubt the man knows how to clear the path for a running game. The Raiders were in the top ten in rushing yards for three of the four seasons he coached there with players like Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan, and Michael Bush in the backfield.
Lynch ran for 1,306 yards on 280 carries last year. Turbin ran for 310 yards on 74 carries, and Michael ran for 175 yards on 34 carries. There is a very real chance that the Seahawks would get more rushing yards from the combination of Turbin and Michael than what Lynch produced last season. If you just took those 280 carries and doled them out at the same ratio that Turbin and Michael ran last year (69% Turbin vs 31% Michael) and at their same rate of yards per carry, you wind up with 192 carries for Turbin and 803 yards plus 88 carries for Michael and 454 yards. That is a total of 1,257 yards.
Of course it is not that simple. The point is the cupboard is not bare. Michael has a career average of nearly 5.0 yards per carry. He is a very different back from Lynch, but has tremendous upside if he can find a way to stay on the field. None of those calculations even include the possibility of a rookie running back joining the fray. The yards may not come on runs as punishing as what Lynch features. The fumbles could increase. But the breakaway runs could also increase. The likelihood of these young backs being available for all 16 games also is higher than Lynch persevering again.
If you love it, let it go
Lynch will be leaving the NFL soon one way or another. The hope here is that it is on his terms, and with his head held high. It is scary for Seahawks fans to ponder what the offense will look like without him. Plenty of pundits will tell you the whole offense relies on him and the team will take a big fall when he moves on. I am here to tell you otherwise.
The $10M the Seahawks would spend on Lynch this year could go a long ways toward helping this team transition into their next stage. Passing on great players in order to retain a player who, at best, will last one more season is only in this team’s best interest if you believe the championship window is just one more year. It is not. At least, it does not need to be if courageous decisions can be made.
This is one Seahawks fan who is hoping the last memory of Beast Mode is punishing the Packers, the Patriots, and the press.