More on Marshawn Lynch and why he has to stay in Seattle

It seems the Seattle Seahawks can’t live with or without Marshawn Lynch.

You know the story by now. He’s their best offensive player and yet reports suggest they’ve grown tired of his act (a little bit like U2, I guess…).

He’s always been allowed to operate with a certain amount of free rope. And after recently signing a 4-year $30m contract — the Seahawks clearly didn’t appreciate him complaining about it a year or two down the line.

According to Chris Mortensen, they’re prepared to move on.

There’s a tendency in pro-sport for situations to change very quickly. You have to wonder if last Sunday’s franchise record running performance — led by Lynch — has changed a few minds.

We discussed the possibility of a re-think in the aftermath of the Giants game. I want to progress that debate today.

Replacing Lynch will be the toughest thing this franchise has to do in the post-Super Bowl era. You could argue running backs are easy to plug into an offense. How else can you describe 29-year-old Justin Forsett posting 5.4 yards-per-carry in Baltimore as the fourth most productive runner in the NFL? I think for most teams it’s a valid point. But not for Seattle. Not with Lynch.

He is so integral to this teams identity. He is a phenom, a truly unique runner that deserves to be remembered as fondly as any other running back since the turn of the century. His physical style, ability to break tackles, his attitude on the field. These are not easily replaced by just plugging in another player. The moment Seattle loses ‘Beast Mode’ the team will also lose a part of its identity. There’s no getting away from that.

He’s also a darn good player — the only true ‘star’ on the offense outside of Russell Wilson. The talent drop off will be difficult to overcome for an offense that can’t rely on a brilliant QB-and-WR partnership. Assuming you can’t add a superstar to compensate for his absence, you might need to bring in several players to make up for it. Think about that because it’s a realistic dilemma. Seattle can cope with Lynch and the current group of receivers. But take Lynch away and you might have to pump up that passing game with a couple of additions — not to mention probably adding a new running back.

Davis Hsu put together a detailed breakdown explaining why the Seahawks can afford to keep Lynch in 2015. It’s pretty clear they can keep him on the $8.5m salary he’s due next season. But there lies part of the problem. I suspect Lynch feels he deserves more — and the catalyst for his reported potential departure is that unhappiness and how it is possibly impacts the team.

The Seahawks might feel they’ve already shown enough loyalty by giving him a healthy contract extension that includes next season. A contract Lynch agreed to. Lynch can equally point to the huge deal they gave Percy Harvin for not a lot of return. The Harvin trade wasn’t so much a catastrophe in terms of the draft outlay as it was belittling the ‘look after your own’ mantra the team was preaching. Players like Marshawn Lynch had given everything to the Seahawks and were being out-earned by an outsider. They played with fire giving Harvin an elite contract — only to quickly shuffle him out the door this season.

If Lynch was as much of a problem as Harvin he probably wouldn’t be here either. That at least offers some hope that this isn’t a relationship beyond repair. With the salary cap expected to rise again this off-season (and again in 2015) there’s no reason why they couldn’t reward Lynch with a further pay increase for next year — and still extend the contracts of Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and others (J.R. Sweezy is receiving enough praise from Pete Carroll to expect he’ll be paid in the off-season).

Doesn’t this just make sense?

If they were to part company with Lynch, this obviously would free up more cap room. They’d need it if they were suddenly tasked with bringing in two or three new offensive additions to compensate for the talent drop off. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think you can replace Lynch with another running back and expect the status quo to remain. You would need to improve the passing game to make up for what you were losing at running back.

In Hsu’s breakdown he includes the possibility of adding a free agent tight end on a salary of $3.5m. Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Jermaine Gresham are the three most high profile tight end’s scheduled to hit the market.

Thomas is enough of a key factor to warrant Denver making savings elsewhere to keep him (and his namesake Demaryius). It’ll be a challenge, considering they currently have just $4m in free cap room to roll into 2015 (they carried $6.4m into this year). They’re a big name veteran roster and will have to find savings to keep both Thomas’. Julius’ cap hit in 2014 is $741,000, Demaryius’ $4.7m. Both players can expect major pay increases. Wes Welker’s $6.7m cap hit will come off the books when he becomes a free agent — and Jacob Tamme is taking up $2.2m. Even so, they have to consider Von Miller will be a free agent in 2016 and other players like Orlando Franklin can test the market in the off-season. It’s a test for John Elway and co.

I wouldn’t expect Cleveland to allow Cameron to hit the market. They currently have $21.8m in free cap space to roll into next year. The franchise tag for a tight end this season is worth $7.035m. Considering their meager pass-catching options you’d expect them to retain a legit big target on at least the tag (if not an extension). Why make life any more difficult for Brian Hoyer (or Johnny Manziel)? Cameron has been plagued by injuries this season, so a year on the tag probably suits all parties.

Then there’s Gresham — one of the biggest first round disappointments in recent memory. He came into the league with the potential to be a superstar. A Jimmy Graham type talent. Instead the Bengals drafted another first round tight end (Tyler Eifert) three years later to replace him. A thoroughly frustrating player who couldn’t make plays even when lining up next to A.J. Green — I’m not sure Gresham offers any real solution to Seattle’s need for a taller receiver. He might be their best option though, especially if Thomas and Cameron don’t make it to free agency.

Such is the paltry offerings outside of this trio, the next best prospective free agent tight end might be Jacob Tamme. Ouch.

So what about receivers? Despite some pretty volatile public bargaining this week — nobody should expect Dez Bryant to be playing anywhere other than Dallas. It’s equally unrealistic to expect Denver to let Demaryius Thomas walk — but again, with a tight cap situation they might have to sacrifice one of the Thomas’.

The third best receiver who could be a free agent in 2015 is… Michael Crabtree. Yeah. I can’t see that somehow.

It’s also going to be difficult to attract a high profile receiver to come to Seattle. Production is everything. As much as a top wide receiver wants to play for a winner, more than anything they want the ball. With the Seahawks you could get 3-4 targets a game. You might not top 1000 yards. Can you see a Bryant or Thomas swapping Romo and Manning to play in this offense? Not without serious financial compensation.

Then there’s the running back position. DeMarco Murray is a possible free agent. Can Dallas afford to keep both Bryant and Murray? Frank Gore (controversial) is a free agent in 2015. Mark Ingram is having a break-out season in New Orleans. None are comparable to Lynch and will be costly with tread on the tire’s.

Then there’s the draft. It’s not a great draft for receivers but Sammie Coates has the kind of big play potential they seem to like. Duke’s Isaac Blakeney is raw but has a lot of upside (and size). There are two possible first round running backs in the sensational Todd Gurley and the productive Melvin Gordon. I haven’t seen a tight end worthy of early round consideration although Devin Funchess has the kind of athleticism that saw Eric Ebron go in the top ten this year.

As you can see it’s a tough sell. Be truthful — is there any combination above that provides a better offense for Seattle than simply keeping Marshawn Lynch and giving him a pay rise? Not to mention the cost involved if you go down the free agent route.

Seattle would be better served putting more stock into other needs. The options on the defensive line are much more attractive in free agency. Possible targets? Jabaal Sheard, Jason Pierre-Paul, Terrance Knighton, Ndamukong Suh, Brooks Reed, Justin Houston, Brian Orakpo and Greg Hardy (although that would provide something of a moral dilemma).

It’s also a very rich draft for pass rushers. You could look to re-sign Cliff Avril, add another pass rusher and even add one more in the first two rounds of the draft. What a way to address a need area. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to do that if you’re having to attack the offense because you let Marshawn Lynch walk.

I suppose you could make a case for going after pass rushers in free agency and then trying to replace Lynch with one of the big two rookie running backs (Gurley or Gordon). It’s something we have to consider, especially with Ian Rapoport hinting strongly that Seattle is keeping tabs on the top running backs in the draft. Again it comes down to just how much of a problem Lynch is perceived to be. Clearly his team mates have no issue with him — just look at the post game reaction from Sunday:

If this is a front office problem — and it certainly looks that way — I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t be willing to consider the possibility of Lynch returning next year. Especially if he continues to perform at Sunday’s level.

Right now he is they key to the offense. The longer that continues, the harder it will be to live without him next year.


  1. Radman

    It’s difficult to foresee a replacement. But you can think about it this way- a season before the Lynch trade that got him on the team, did we see a possibility of Lynch acquired for mid round picks? Did anyone see the Percy Harvin trade a season before it went down?

    There’s always solutions out there, there is always talent out there. Good GMs find them. JS is a good GM.

  2. Arias

    could it be that we are vastly over reacting to the importance of Lynch primarily because we really have no idea how good or not Russell Wilson really is. Instead of providing us this year with more clarity on his potential he’s just made it more muddled. Is he the guy that we saw the first two years that occasionally battled problems with accuracy but for the most part was spot on in his management of the game or is he being affected by all the pounding that he took so far in the game which has limited his ceiling? without question if wilson had been playing better Marshawn would not have been leaned upon as much this past game. I don’t think it’s really possible to get a good handle on whether it’s worth it 2 retain Marshawn until a better sense can be gotten of what kind of player wilson is expected to become. if wilson cannot be relied upon to develop any better than he is right now then definitely we need to retain Marshawn Lynch.

    • SunPathPaul

      Tough and real stance. well said. I believe in RW but he seems to not believe in his Rookie WR help, thus he is stagnating…

    • cha

      Good and valid questions Arias. RW surely is the key to the entire salary cap structure going forward. It will be dicey territory as your QB is a key player but you can’t have him cripple your salary cap if he’s not the absolute linchpin of the offense ala Manning or Brady. PS and JS never intended in their team structure to have the QB be that player.

      One thing definitely to consider is this is RW’s third season. The first two had deep runs into the playoffs, and prior to that it was Bowl season, combine season, rookie and training camp giving everything towards winning the starting job in the first place. #notimetosleep. Combine the personal issues he’s faced, the charity work and the endorsements that have come his way, it might be taking its toll. It’s no surprise there are reports the Hawks asked him cut back on his endorsements.

    • Random

      Wilson is just bad at playing in the rain. Always has been. Watch the Saints playoff game from last year.

      • Arias

        wrong city to be a starting quarterback in then don’t you think?

  3. kevin mullen

    And yet nobody talks about how underrated Lynch is when it comes to the passing game, his hands and blocking are tops in the league at his position. I’m not sure you could find a better RB that has the pass block & catching combination in the league. (Forte?)

    With that said, in the last few games we see the short passing game move from Percy to Lynch and I think we’re getting better results: not only is there no drop off (in terms of completions) but Lynch fights for more yards and breaks more tackles. When Bevell talks about using the short passes and bubble screens as an extension of the running game, it begs the question: why the hell were we not using Lynch in this capacity in the first place??

  4. Rugby Lock

    They have to resign the dude… he IS the embodiment of who Seattle is. Offer him an extension that is structured so they can get out of it with no problem every year.

  5. Mylegacy

    The “scheme” was pound Da ball with Da Beast and make big pass plays. Like in 2013. It worked.

    Then Harvin happened followed by our Harvin withdrawal. Kearse long down the seam – gone. Baldwin – where did he go?

    Ironically, I think we’ve the players in house to make all the “scheme” work with the exception of a big red-zone horse – though Lynch swinging out of the backfield on short throws looks nice in the red zone. We are sitting with not one – but two deep threats. Richardson and Lockette – two exceptional speedsters both of whom are capable of making the big play down field. It borders on outrageous that we haven’t tried them deep more often. AND – we’ve still got Kearse who looked deadly up the middle on big plays.

    Before the season the wisest Hawks fans all thought Lynch would be gone – they thought Michael was the replacement – whoever replaces Lynch MUST be able to block as well as he runs and he must run like a Greek God. Looks like Greek Gods are as rare as hens teeth.

    Rob, I think Da Beast is not realistically replaceable. When, not if, Wilson gets his passing on the same otherworldly level as the rest of his play – we’ll be what we thought we might be this year – more or less unstoppable(ish).

    Also, I’m falling in love with Will Tukuafu, imagine Beast mode with (a healthy) Miller as tight end and Big Will just behind him – my oh my. I don’t see Coleman making it back – Will is just too spectacularly – well spectacular.

  6. CC

    Resigning our own – we have heard John S talk about this a lot – but who is he referring too? I have always thought it was the draft choices, not necessarily the guys the bring in. So Kam, Sherm, Earl and Doug were resigned – likely Bobby, KJ next. Tate was let go – a draft choice – other guys who were signed and not drafted – McDonald, Clem, Red, Maragos. So where does Marshawn fit in? I do think the FO thought they had been fair to Marshawn with his contract. He has been paid good money for these past few years while guys like Kam, Sherm, Doug all have had pittance in comparison. I have no problem with the choice to let guys they didn’t draft, walk. It is a business.

    So here’s how I see it – they’ll keep Marshawn for the final year of his contract. If he wants more, or an extension, they’ll say no. If they change the deal on Marshawn, they risk the other guys wanting to re-do their contracts as well – and they can’t risk it. Personally, I cannot imagine how different this team would look without him – I want him to play forever. Not realistic, but we need him for 2015 – even if he tapers off a bit, then you can roll in other RBs to take the load off.

  7. JeffC

    One more year. It’s not like he’s locked in and they’re stuck with him for 10 years. They have to consider if they let him walk. The disruption to his teammates who respect him and consider him the heart and soul of the team. The fans, who love him. And if he signs with SF…they’d never recover from the public relations disaster of that.

    If Lynch and seattle part ways, it has to be by his choice. The front office comes out a loser any way that they cut him loose – unless someone offers a Herschel Walker deal to seattle, and they won’t.

    Seattle took the locker room risk with Percy Harvin. It didn’t pay off. That’s not Lynch’s fault. The fault lies with the front office.

    One more year and they’re off the hook, and it gives them one additional offseason to prepare for his departure, and no PR disaster. If he retires because they won’t give him more money for that last season, then they are off the hook if that is what they were looking for anyway.

    • Kyle

      One more year and we’re off the hook? Do you trust the guys behind lynch to run? Or are you suggesting getting a RB in the draft and mentoring him for a year to take over?

      • JeffC

        One more year and the front office is “off the hook of dealing with Lynch.” Me personally, I’d try to fix the relationship if I were PC, and extend him for an additional year on top of playing him next year and hope that Jerome Bettis’ analysis is correct that he’s a 3000 carry back rather than a 2000 carry back.

        I have limited faith in Cmike and Turbo going forward.

        But at the very least keep him through his present contract, and it gives us two offseasons to find his replacement rather than one offseason.

        I think he’s too elite to let go.

        • Arias

          Kind of hard to fix the relationship when the root cause of the bitterness is that he doesn’t feel he’s being fairly compensated. Sure Pere could fix the relationship, and he’s the kind of guy that you know has already tried, by completely capitulating to his salary demands but short of that I’m not sure there’s a fix.

  8. Anthony Petrielli

    Not that Mark Ingram can straight up replace Lynch (he obviously can’t), but I think he is a player worthy of a conversation if things don’t workout with Lynch. Potentially, an Ingram-Michael combo gives Carroll the type of two headed dynamic he enjoyed at USC with White and Bush, with Ingram being the physical back and Michael being the explosive back. It’s a lot to ask, and certainly no sure thing, but I think it’s a conversation.

    If you are saving money on RB there, then hopefully you can add some secondary pieces. Maybe Charles Clay and Torrey Smith type players.

    Of course, I’d rather just keep a star player than these alternatives, but if we’re going down this road I think there is some value to be had and we can maybe bring out a little more in Russell Wilson than we are currently doing.

    • Arias

      I agree, contrary to what rob seemed to imply above Mark Ingram does not have any tread on his tires. if there’s a replacement for Lynch in free agency the guy I would target will be Ingram.

  9. Ghost Mutt

    The FA market could determine a lot as far as Lynch’s unhappiness heading into 2015. Lynch was widely quoted as wanting to be paid as a top 3 runner, right now AP is the top at 11.5 mil and from there there’s a drop to LeSean at 7.6 base. Who knows what happens with Peterson this offseason – but it’s certainly possible he’s playing for less.

    The Cowboys are sure to re-sign Murray – as the league’s top runner if his deal averages around the 8.5 that the Beast is due, then how can he really complain? I feel like he could have two options – play out his contract and receive a relatively huge RB payday, or re-sign for three more years at a lower rate. Those are fair options, and he’s not likely to get much better anywhere else. At that point, if he’s not happy with the arrangement, then I think we’d be right to let him walk.

    I’m not understating his importance to the team, which is huge. But we can’t give out a deal that handcuffs us to a runner touching 30. With that said I’m confident we’ll be enjoying Marshawn bulldoze fools all over again this time next year, it makes too much sense for everyone concerned.

  10. kyle

    As high as you all think I am for this fairytale hope I have to say it. Sign suh or dez in fa. Take Gurley or Gordon round one. Lynch plays one to two more years with us. We all live happy and drunk on js love. Reality sucks doesn’t it.

    • SunPathPaul

      I agree kyle. Sign Suh as the big time off season FA. If we could afford Percy, our D sure could handle Suh.

      Then draft a RB- Gurley or Gordon, and a big tall WR and TE. All the other picks for OL/DL/DB…

      • Rob Staton

        Gerald McCoy’s deal will be used as a benchmark for Suh and may even be topped. McCoy lowest cap hit on the deal comes in 2020 and it’s $12.5m. However good Suh is, Seattle can’t afford to make that kind of commitment over 6-7 years. And if the deal is shorter, the cap hit will only go up. It just looks like a total non starter unless — somehow — his market is ice cold and Seattle can get him on a Bennett/Avril type deal (which seems highly unlikely).

        • kyle

          Yeah, I would love it if that happened but I’m not delusional. The thing that makes me give it pause is, Suh has a temper and although that is wanted on dline it gets him in trouble. Some teams might not want to take a chance on him with the locker room “issues” and possible suspensions if he loses his temper out there.
          Same thing with Dez, I keep hearing dallas is not happy with his attitude or sold on his change of lifestyle? Some teams might be scared to pull that trigger if he makes it to FA. Also, how is dallas going to afford him?
          On Denver, who are they going to keep? which Thomas? Can they somehow find a way to resign both? Things to think about if you are trying to be optimistic

  11. Cysco

    The Cowboys are in a really tough spot with Dez. Their current offer is WAY lower than any of the other top WR in the league. Their cap situation isn’t that great and they are going to have to pay Murray this year.

    The word down here is that the Cowboys don’t trust Dez enough to give him the big money.

    I think they’re going to have a really tough time giving him a deal with 35- 40m guaranteed which is probably what he’s due at market value.

    I don’t think the seahawks would go big on another FA WR experiment but man, Bryant on this team would be sick.

    • Cysco

      Oh and to answer Rob’s question, yes a team without Lynch that has Turbin and Michael at RB and Dez Bryant at WR is better than what we currently have IMO.

      • JeffC

        If they DO let go of Lynch, I would be pretty disappointed if they didn’t make a push to bring in an impact weapon like Dez with the cap savings. If they already had a Dez level talent on offense on a rookie deal, then that would be different. It’s going to be tough. If the plan is to resign guys who need new deals who are already on the team, like Wagner, KJ, Carpenter, Mebane, Avril, etc – with no Lynch – and not dip into FA for an offensive weapon for RW, that’s not going to scare too many defensive coordinators.

        • Cysco

          Dez will likely get a deal in the 13m per year with 35-40 guaranteed range. Not sure it’ll be with the cowboys or not, but I’m virtually certain it won’t be with the Hawks. (unfortunately. because next to Megatron, Dez is probably the best possible receiver for this team in the entire league)

          I think the front office needs to ask themselves if there’s a better player than Lynch that they can get for $9m. That’s what you can have Lynch for. I have a hard time figuring out who could be a better use of that money.

  12. AlaskaHawk

    The thing about Marshawn Lynch is that he makes an average offensive line look good. So when you talk about transitioning to other running backs then you won’t get good performance unless the offensive line is fixed. We really need a line that can stay healthy and play together for a season. So far the only player who has shown that capacity is Sweezy at RG. No other players have proven themselves. Now we can keep dumping money into players with elite potential that are hurt half the time. Or we can move on and find other players who perhaps aren’t as good but can actually play a whole season without going on the injury list.

    We will have a better running attack with good healthy line. Wilson will get better protection and longer time to throw. Even the screens will look better if we can just find a health offensive lineThis is key to everything. I’m not suggesting we have to pick high in the draft – though that will certainly help. But the Seahawks can’t ignore the line problems forever.

    With a good line we can get yardage out of the average NFL back. Without it, there will be more penetration by the defense, more disrupted plays, even Lynch has troubles when he is stopped behind the line. So just factor in this problem as you talk about who our running backs will be. The only reason we got this far behind this offensive line is because of Lynch’s punishing running style.

    • Cysco

      I think you’ll get some argument around here that our offensive line isn’t good. Does it look like it has issues at times when 3/5 of the line are second or third string players? Sure. But at the end of the day, the team is leading the league in rushing. I have a hard agreeing that the number one rushing team in the league has major offensive line issues.

      As far as Lynch making our line look good, sure. He’s a fantastic back. But, Turbin and Michael have also had success behind this line. Heck Michael is sitting at 7.x yards per carry, the same as RW.

      IMO, Lynch doesn’t get you anymore yards than Michael, or probably even Turbin. What Lynch gets you is reliability, experience, and trust that he’ll do all the other things like block, protect the ball, get that one yard when it’s 3rd and 1, push the pile for that last yard at the goal line.

      I’m willing to bet that if Lynch were gone and Michael took over, we’d see similar stats out of him. But, we’d see a play or three every game where’d we be saying “Ugh! Lynch would have picked up that blitz. Michael is going to get Wilson killed!” or, Ugh, Lynch would have protected the ball better there and not coughed it up”. or “Ugh, Lynch would have fallen forward on that carry for the first down and not danced around for a loss.”

      • Arias

        With all the starters playing the run blocking is very good. Unfortunately that excellence does not carry over to pass protection. Sweezy was widely lauded by Pete Carroll for his play last Sunday. But he still gave up 3 quarterback pressures including a sack. That’s unacceptable and an aspect of his game I hope to see improve in the near future.

        This offensive line finished last season ranked 32 out of 32 in pass protection by Football Outsiders. The only major change is that the right tackle spot has gotten Considerably worse with a raw rookie starting at the position. I’d argue that it’s easily still a bottom five offensive line as far as pass protection goes.

    • Rob Staton

      The run blocking by this offensive line is exceptional.

      Have key players struggled with injuries? Sure. But please not another year talking about the offensive line.

      • AlaskaHawk

        I’m sorry about bringing this subject up again. But I think we are being naive if we don’t give credit to Marshawn Lynch for making our line look better then it would with Turbin or Michael. As for Turbin and Michael’s good performance behind the current line, I think a lot of that is pyschological. They see Lynch breaking off runs and they try to make plays too. If they had to grind it out for an entire game without Lynch it would be a different story.

        • Rob Staton

          Marshawn Lynch wasn’t opening those big holes right through the heart of the D-line. That big Christine Michael run at the end. Eight in the box and still able to run through a hole the size of a bus to get a 1v1 against the safety (no contest). Are we really putting that down to Michael watching Lynch and then “thinking he should try and make a play too”? I’d put it down to exceptional run blocking. We have a fantastic run blocking O-line, which is what they set out to achieve.

          • kyle

            Ive noticed better run blocking without carp then with him… We should keep it that way

            • AlaskaHawk

              Yes Bailey played well and without the false starts. Gilliam played tight end and did okay on running plays.

            • Rob Staton

              I think Carpenter gets a raw deal overall.

  13. Random

    I agree that Lynch is great and should be re-signed.

    I also think that he gets a little too much credit. Those read-options confuse the defense to his advantage. Also Turbin makes him look good when he comes in to constantly whiff blocks and fumble the ball.

  14. kyle

    Apparently the Cowboys are giving Dez some really low ball offers and he is getting fed up with it. #fairytale

    • Arias

      maybe that’s why he swapped agents over to jay-z’s company.

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