There will be a ton of movement personnel-wise on the Seahawks roster as the offseason progresses, but before all that, we're taking stock of how Seattle's roster looks prior to free agency and the draft.
We've covered quarterbacks, so now let's look at the Seattle running back situation.
RB Marshawn Lynch 5'11, 215 [RETIREMENT?]
RB Thomas Rawls 5'11, 215
FB/TE Brandon Cottom 6'2, 262 [FUT]
I'll just kick this off by saying that I think Marshawn Lynch is going to retire. John Schneider has stated as much as well. You never really know what Lynch will do, but I think that even if he doesn't retire, he won't be back with the Seahawks next season. Schneider even said that if Lynch were to decide not to retire, they'd have to do something with his contract, and I don't know if Lynch would be willing to take a big pay-cut to stay with Seattle, considering some of the history of discord he has with the front office. Bottom line? I don't think Seattle wants him around next year, and I don't know if Lynch even wants to play. All that adds up to Seattle and Lynch parting ways, in my opinion.
So where does that leave us?
I don't think it's too big of a stretch to say that Seattle found its starting running back for 2016 in Thomas Rawls this year. He took the league by storm, starting Weeks 3-5 and 11-14 while Marshawn Lynch battled various injuries. In those seven starts, Rawls finished with 147 carries for 830 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns while catching 9 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. His production on a per-start basis rivaled incredible rookie and first-round pick Todd Gurley, and Seattle's offense seemed to turn a corner and function at a higher level when Rawls was out there.
Not only did Rawls lead the NFL in yards per carry (min. 100 rushes), he finished first in the NFL in Football Outsiders DYAR (total value), second in DVOA (value per rush) and first in success rate (consistency) for the 2015 season. That is seriously ridiculous and absurd and awesome. Statistically speaking, Rawls' seven starts were probably the most impressive from any running back in the NFL this year.
His broken ankle in Week 14 ended his season but it sounds like the team expects him to be back and fully healthy once training camp starts next year. He's just 22 years old. Assuming he hasn't lost power and explosion because of his injury, it's safe to say he'll head into 2016 as the starter for Seattle at running back.
Who will be lead blocking for him? Well, currently, Brandon Cottom is the only fullback fully under contract. With Derek Coleman's legal issues combined with Will Tukuafu's unrestricted free agent status, Cottom kind of heads into 2016 as the favorite for that spot. But, it's a long offseason and I can't imagine that Tukuafu would be terribly expensive to re-sign.
Regardless, that's where we stand with players fully under contract.
Here's what Seattle's rushing numbers looked like this season (via Seahawks.com).
The Seahawks finished the season third in the NFL in rushing yards per game (141.8) and seventh in yards per carry (4.5) but scored just 10 rushing touchdowns (18th), something they will undoubtedly look to improve on next season. Russell Wilson's offensive explosion in the passing game during the second half of the year was probably a big reason for this, obviously, but I think that Pete Carroll still highly values the "ground and pound" offense and will hope to get more points from the running game in 2016.
Moving to the free agents...
Free Agents (restricted)
RB Christine Michael 5'10, 221 [RFA]
FB Derrick Coleman 6'0, 233 [RFA]
As Evan Hill broke down, with the help of Over The Cap, Seattle will have to decide whether or not to place tenders on the restricted free agents they wish to retain. There are two running backs on this list.
Per Hill, RFAs can be offered "tenders" by their team. There are several types of tenders, as the people over at Over the Cap explained. Each tender has a monetary value (this is a list of what it ended up being last year).
"The team can place one of three tenders on the player. The highest tender is the 1st round compensation tender, meaning if another team signs the player and the original team decides to not match it the new team will have to give the team a 1st round draft pick in 2014.
If the team does not own their first round pick (such as the Bills) they are unable to sign the restricted free agent. The other tenders are a 2nd round tender, original draft round, and finally right of first refusal tender. The ROFR means you get no compensation if you decide to not match the offer sheet. Teams have five days to match the new offer sheet. During that time period the player will count on both teams' salary cap."
So, restricted free agency means Seattle has a few options with C-Mike: 1) put a tender on him, 2) do the Right of First Refusal thing, or 3) simply look to re-sign him before it all starts.
I'm guessing Seattle won't mess around with restricted free agency with regards to Christine Michael. As a running back, he won't have a big market anyway (teams can get guys in the draft). Instead, the Seahawks will likely just throw him an offer and hope they can come to terms with him for a new deal in 2016. Talking to Davis Hsu about this, let's use $800,000 for a benchmark for 2016.
While C-Mike emerged as a viable starter for Seattle late in the year, he had seen almost zero interest from other teams following his release from the Cowboys, and no one is likely to pay him much more than the veteran minimum ($600k or so). C-Mike's not going to get enough interest elsewhere for Seattle to place that ~$2.4M 2nd round tender on him, nor will they likely go for the ~$1.5M ROFR tender. They'll simply look to come to terms on something smaller, I would guess.
If the do end up placing one of those tenders on C-Mike, they are not guaranteed, and the team would then probably end up negotiating with Michael for something smaller or end up cutting him.
Same goes for Derrick Coleman. He does not have enough value to the team (nor will he have enough interest elsewhere) to warrant a tender.
Bottom line, it will be interesting to see what happens with these two this offseason. I would guess C-Mike is back with Seattle in 2016, and Coleman is a different story. A lot probably depends on his court case.
Unrestricted Free Agents
RB Bryce Brown, 6'0, 223 [UFA]
FB Will Tukuafu 6'4, 285 [UFA]
RB Fred Jackson 6'1, 216 [UFA]
Of these three, I think Will Tukuafu is the only one that has a strong chance of returning. Seattle likes him, but they'll have to decide whether they can get better value with a rookie contract at that position. You can get fullbacks in rookie free agency and save a couple hundred grand if you want there. Either way, I'm guessing that Tuk will be back at least to compete for the job.
Jackson didn't do anything that stood out to me, nor did Brown.
End of the day, Seattle has one guy under contract that is very likely to be back -- Thomas Rawls. Look for Seattle to try to re-sign Christine Michael and then grab a guy or two in the draft and rookie free agency.