It was first reported by Yahoo! Sports' Rand Getlin Wednesday night that Marshawn Lynch plans to miss out on the Seahawks' mandatory mini-camp next week, and now several other sources are corroborating or supporting this information. It's still in rumor-mode and neither the team nor Lynch's camp have commented officially, but the initial whispers have become a media din. As ESPN's Terry Blount reports,
"It's very, very unlikely that Lynch will be there,'' said a source close to the situation. "He wants the Seahawks to renegotiate his current contract and provide him with more up-front money."
As Bob Condotta points out, this posturing may be "a hedge against the team releasing him prior to the 2015 season, meaning Lynch wants to get some of that money now." Lynch has just watched Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, and Sidney Rice get released and while both Clemons and Bryant got new contracts in different cities, the free agent landscape for running backs is quite different. Further, any major injury would be catastrophic to Lynch's earning potential as he approaches 29 years of age. Sidney Rice, coming off of an ACL surgery, just re-signed on a very meager veteran deal after getting little interest on the open market.
Lynch, whose deal also includes performance incentives (for eclipsing 1,500 yards rushing) of $500,000 in each of the next two years, likely didn't take too kindly to Darrell Bevell's recent comments about Seattle moving to a running-back by committee strategy (that's a guess, not me reporting anything). Considering Bevell backtracked on those comments, which were, and I quote, "We are going to be running back by committee," I'm guessing Lynch's camp may have given the team a piece of their mind on the apparent disparity in how each side may value Marshawn's talents.
Lynch, after all, has scored 35 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons, more than any other player in the NFL, even without Darrell Bevell's decision to pass on 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 1-yard line back in Week 8 this year.
Doesn't look like Marshawn was happy with the call on that TD pic.twitter.com/A5lUHWmzzS— Thomas Beekers (@thomasbeekers) October 18, 2013
The question is now out there: Does Lynch deserve of a raise? Is he in decline, or can the Seahawks expect him to buck statistical trends and remain productive at 28 years of age? John Schneider and Pete Carroll have noted that Lynch remains the heart and soul of the Seahawks' smash-mouth identity, so there's more at stake than just pure numbers. What Lynch brings is a toughness, badassness factor - indomitable, unafraid, never intimidated, irreverent.
As I pointed out Wednesday in an article ranking NFL backfields, just earlier this week CBS Sports' Pete Prisco posited that Marshawn Lynch's reputation for going Beastmode last year was a "myth," citing Lynch's decline from 5.0 to 4.2 YPC from 2012 to 2013 and his paltry 39 yards in Super Bowl XLVIII. Touché, but to that I say balderdash! Balderdash! Lynch easily perpetuated his nickname this year by remaining probably the toughest player to, like, actually tackle, to the ground, in the NFL. Per Pro Football Focus' charting, Lynch forced 75 "missed tackles" by opponents, most in the NFL by a long shot, and substantiating this, Football Outsiders determined that he led the NFL, again by a long shot, in "broken tackles" with 59.
Yes, the defense led Seattle to a championship season, but it also helped that Beast Mode was going FULL BEAST MODE for the entire year. Lynch has been near the top of the league in broken tackles in years past but we had never tracked a year quite like last year. We marked Lynch with at least two broken tackles in every single regular-season game of 2013 except for the Week 13 Monday Night Football dismantling of the Saints, when he had none. (Lynch actually had just 45 yards on 16 carries in that game; the passing game provided all the offense.) The highlight of Lynch's season came against Houston in Week 4, when he broke four different tackles on a 43-yard run including safety Danieal Manning twice.
Obviously, Lynch remained the focal point for the Seahawks' offense, but his attitude and physical presence embodies the culture the team wants to foster.
"I want you to understand this about our team - we're absolutely committed to running the football," Said Pete Carroll at the town hall meeting a few weeks ago. "In the last couple years, we've run the football more than anybody in the NFL. And we like that. This game of football has always been about the physical side of it. It's always been about the aggressive, tough, take-care-of-the-ball mentality, built off the defense and special teams. But we closed the loop on toughness by being committed to the running game.
"We're going to run it down their frickin' throat."
So, will the team budge?
Here's what Sportrac has to say about Lynch's deal, and this points out what Lynch's camp is likely taking to the team:
While Lynch's current deal holds an average annual salary of $7.5 million, the $13 million in cash remaining through 2015 leaves him with $6.5 million per year - well paid, but 9th most among active running backs.
His $7 million cap figure for 2014 ranks 6th among running backs, and the $9 million hit for 2015 ranks 3rd. His $3 million in dead money (cap cost to be released or traded) rank 14th, a fairly low figure for a back of his worth. It's a smart time for Lynch to at least be knockin' on the door for a new deal - as all of the pieces are in place to do so.
We shall see. These things - negotiations that go back and forth and are only spurred on by deadlines - just take time. Lynch may be willing to eat a few fines in order to secure more guaranteed money or more "likely to earn" bonuses this and next year. We shall see.
And, for the record, despite all the reporting that Lynch will 'hold out' at Seattle's mandatory minicamp, Mike Florio of PFT is reporting that "a source with knowledge of the situation [has said that] Lynch hasn't told anyone what he plans to do in regards to whether he will attend the mini-camp." So, perhaps this will be much ado about nothing.