Update on Marshawn Lynch's reported retirement threat, contract dispute

Jeff Zelevansky

Rumblings, rumblings, rumblings...

Here's where we are with the Marshawn Lynch rumored contract hold-out situation:

No one knows if Lynch will show up next week for the Seahawks mandatory minicamp, not even those closest to Lynch. However, there is the thought that Lynch would like more money and is using the threat of retirement as leverage against the team, as the front office does not have a strong motivation otherwise to cave to Lynch's demands.

Ian Rapoport reported last night:

"He is certainly considering [retirement]. Although, to be clear, Marshawn Lynch has not informed the Seahawks that he will skip mini-camp next week."

So, as we've said here, all this remains speculation, and could even amount to a whole lot of hand-wringing over nothing if Lynch shows up next week. That said, per Rapsheet:

"Marshawn does want a new contract; he wants a raise, and from what I understand, he's asking for a relatively minor raise. He's paid like the #5 running back in the NFL, and he wants to be paid more like #2 or #3."

Depending on how you look at the pay structure (APY vs. salary), that could be a raise of anywhere from $1.5M to $3M in 2014.

Rapoport continued: "So, will he show up? I talked to a source, someone close to him, and no one knows. Even people that speak to him every day, because well, that's just what he's like. He's simply his own person."

We knew this. He's a different dude. The fact that he hasn't told the team what he's planning and that people close to him don't even know what's going to happen makes this media craze a little silly, but here we are (I know I'm part of it). That said, importantly:

"From the Seahawks' perspective," said Rapoport, "talking to sources close to them, they are not inclined to give Marshawn a raise. That's not something that they believe is necessary. They see him as a top-5 back, he's paid like it, and plus, they do not like the precedent it would set of having a player receive an extension, [subsequently] have a stellar performance, then ask for another new deal."

Nor should they.

Rapsheet: "Remember, we should be clear, the Seahawks love Marshawn Lynch. But, they have a plan for life without him, including in the Draft. Here's why: from what I'm told, Marshawn told at least two teammates last year that if the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, he might retire. Yes, walk away from the game of football. He has no money issues, and when I talked to a source close to him today, and asked him, ‘could that actually happen?' the response was, ‘yeah, it could.'"

The retirement thing has been floating around since last year so it's not news or anything, but it's interesting in that Lynch is now reportedly using it as a leverage point. Will he actually follow through on it though? Would the Seahawks call his bluff? It seems likely they may.

Former Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux joined NFL AM this morning and talked about his friend and former teammate, noting that he doesn't believe Lynch will follow through with the threat to retire. "I don't see Marshawn walking away just yet," said Big Play Babs. "He's in Oakland. He's working on his training. He's doing the normal things that he always does. We actually went out last week when I was in Seattle and he and I had conversation and had a drink. The bottom line is, it is about the money. When a guy starts producing the way Marshawn has been producing, he wants to be paid."

As Babs points out though, the Seahawks have a pretty specific salary cap plan in place and don't necessarily have the cap space to throw money at Lynch, especially after they signed Kevin Williams for $2M+ yesterday.

While its worth noting that the two salary cap sites that I read the most, OverTheCap.com and Sportrac.com, both posted articles that posited supporting evidence to back up Lynch's camp's desire for more money, it's also important to note that while Lynch may have financial security and the ability to walk away from the game, it would cost him a great deal of money. This seems to be really contradictory to this whole process of holding out for purely monetary reasons. If Lynch skips minicamp, he'll owe around $70k in fines, but if he does indeed retire, as Mike Florio reports,

"...He'll owe a lot more than $70,000. Lynch received a $6 million signing bonus when he agreed to terms on a four-year deal in 2012. With an annual allocation of $1.5 million, Lynch has earned half of the money. If he quits football, the labor deal allows the Seahawks to easily recover half of the total money. The total stakes for Lynch, when factoring in lost wages for 2014 of $5.5 million, become $8.5 million. Which is a mere $2.5 million less than what he has earned in the first two seasons of his current contract.

In other words, it would be stupid for Lynch to retire."

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Bottom line: Marshawn has reportedly told no one of his plans to hold out for a new deal. Right now they're all just rumblings and ambiguous opinions of people close to Lynch. Neither Lynch nor the team have commented. It's become a major story, but really there will be nothing concrete until next week when Seattle opens camp.

Probably related to all this, Lynch (or his twitter people) took time away from their normal M.O. of retweeting things related to his charity work to retweet this last night:

I'm guessing this goes out to all those fans reacting with outrage to Lynch's contract situation, a situation that is exceedingly common and expected in the NFL. He's still working hard as he skips minicamps and OTAs, as he does every offseason.

My advice would be to let the process play out before casting too much of a judgement on the situation. Fans may remember the vitriol that was thrown Michael Bennett's way for comments that "this isn't Costco," before he eventually re-signed with the team. Let it play out -- these are negotiations, they're not going to resolve until deadlines spur action.

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