Marshawn Lynch Doesn’t Really Have A Leg To Stand On

Reports have come out that state Marshawn Lynch is planning to skip the mandatory minicamp next week.  He’s entering Year 3 of a 4-year deal and apparently wants a new contract.

Which, yeah, I guess this could be expected.  Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman all got big new deals over this off-season.  Yes, they are all very important pieces to the Seahawks, but so is Lynch.  Lynch has been the foundation of an offense and a playing style for this team in its run-up to the championship this past February.  In a league that’s featuring the passing game more and more, the Seahawks have gone counter to that by slowing the game down and pounding the rock, with brilliant results.

And, not for nothing, but Marshawn Lynch has been one of the best running backs in the league the last couple years.

He signed his last contract in March of 2012 and immediately proceeded to have the best year of his career, with nearly 1,600 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Those numbers took a bit of a dip in 2013, with 1,257 yards and 12 TDs, but that was with an offensive line constantly in flux due to injuries.  His current deal was for 4 years and $30 million, with a $6 million signing bonus.  Including his bonus, he has taken home $17 million, and he’s set to earn another $5.5 million in 2014 (bringing his total take – assuming he doesn’t hold out of any regular season games – to $22.5 millon out of a possible $30 million).

I think our worst nightmare with Marshawn Lynch was for this to all end poorly.  I doubt anyone on this team is more beloved by the fans – including Russell Wilson – than Beastmode.  At the same time, the writing is on the wall when you look at his age, when you look at past performance of running backs his age, when you look at his punishing playing style, and when you look at who we’ve got on the team coming up behind him.  The ideal situation for everyone would be:  he plays and leads us to another championship in 2014, then we release him following the season and he rides off into the sunset, retiring as a Seahawk.

I don’t know, maybe that’s ACTUALLY what people think will happen.  It’s a foolish dream, to be sure.  I just think we’ve all had our heads in the sand when it comes to Lynch’s parting with this team.  No one wants to think about the unthinkable until it’s right up in their faces.

Well, now it is.

I can understand his rationale, even beyond jealousy of younger teammates getting their big paydays this off-season.  He’s 28 years old.  He’s either right in the prime of his playing career, or he’s JUST starting his decline.  Either way, he’s not going to ever be any better than he is right now.  And, let’s face it, he’s going to start getting worse fairly soon.  This is a panic move if I’ve ever seen one.  If Lynch were a free agent right this second, and this was 1999 instead of 2014, he’d be looking at a huge payday!

But, he’s got two years left on his deal.  And it IS 2014.  He’s got zero leverage to renegotiate, and even if he did, it’s not like running backs are breaking the bank.  They’re almost LITERALLY a dime a dozen now!  Even if he was a free agent, I’d wager his new deal would actually be LOWER than what he’s going to get from the Seahawks in the next two seasons (which, for the record, I think he’d be cut before 2015 begins).

To make his matters even worse, we’ve got Christine Michael.  Remember him?  Second round pick, potential stud with breakaway speed … Lynch’s eventual REPLACEMENT?  I’m not saying it would be ideal for the Seahawks for Lynch to hold out or retire in protest.  But, I think Michael could pick up the game fairly well, without too much trouble, as the season progressed.

As a fan, you hate to hear reports about your favorite players being disgruntled.  It starts to raise questions you don’t want to ask.  It’s hypocritical to ask a football player to “honor his contract”, because their teams absolutely NEVER do.  It’s what I love about the game:  you can dump crappy players and recoup some of that contract money without much fuss, for the most part.  It’s what I hate about baseball:  fully guaranteed contracts are utter bullshit.  But, at the same time, we’re only TWO YEARS in!  Why would you sign a 4-year deal if there’s the possibility that it would be obsolete halfway through?  Why – when you’re 26 years old in 2012 – would you sign a deal that would lock you up until you’re 30, effectively shutting down your prime window of contract-negotiating?  At 30, no team is giving a running back a huge amount of money!  At 30, you’re lucky to go year-by-year as a backup, or as part of a rotation.

If Lynch was thinking ahead, he would have signed a 2-year deal in 2012.  That would put him, in 2014, at 28 years of age, in his prime, coming off of another productive season.

You could argue that he signed the deal in 2012, believing that he’d never see that fourth year anyway, at which point it effectively turns into a 3-year deal … but I dunno.  I just think he’s fucked in this thing.  Which means we’re kind of all fucked if we’re going into 2014 with a disgruntled superstar.

But, who knows?  This team has preached that they want to take care of “their guys”.  And, Marshawn Lynch is certainly one of their guys.  We don’t have a lot of experience with this regime and disgruntled players, but one that comes directly to mind is Chris Clemons.  It’s not a direct apples-to-apples comparison, but in 2012, Clemons held out of the offseason program because he was going into the final year of his deal.  The team ended up giving him a 3-year contract (which, again, ended up being for two years, as he was released in this off-season).

I don’t know if you want to make your living by letting players cry until they get what they want, but at the same time, do you really want to make your first real stand against the most beloved player on the team?  That’s not just bad for fan morale (who would eventually get over it, if Michael ends up being as good as we hope), but it’s bad for the locker room.  On the one hand, yes, it sets an example:  we don’t negotiate with terrorists.  But, on the other hand, it could sour players on a front office that has already released the team’s emotional core in Red Bryant.

In the end, it’s a business.  Everyone knows it’s a business.  So, I’m sure people would get over it and move on.  Professionals can look past all the noise and focus on the game.  But, it’s just kind of sad, I guess.  There’s an end of innocence vibe when it stops being about the love of the game and starts being just another job.  In 2012 and 2013, the majority of the Seahawks were young and hungry.  Yes, there was adversity, but they were out there, killing themselves for the team.  Now, with key pieces released (Bryant & Clemons), key pieces re-signed to huge deals (Sherman, Thomas, Bennett), and this news of Lynch possibly holding out, it’s no longer about the team.  It’s a collection of individuals all wearing the same outfits.

I’m not saying I didn’t see all of this coming.  I’m just saying … I wish I could have had a little more time.  Or, at least, appreciated it more.

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