Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Friday morning he believes it is likely Marshawn Lynch will retire.
“I’m under the impression he’s leaning towards retirement,” Schneider said on 710-AM radio in Seattle.
That leaves the Seahawks in the same spot they were this time last year. And the year before.
It’s not as if Lynch has Schneider and the Seahawks on speed dial throughout the offseason. The star running back usually doesn’t make contact with them until he shows up (or not) the first day of a mandatory minicamp, usually in May.
He has floated the possibility of retirement during each of the last two offseasons. That resulted in Lynch getting $1.5 million in future money up front in 2014 to end his week-long holdout from training camp, and in him getting an additional $5 million for 2015 as a result of a two-year contract extension last March. That runs through the 2017 season, but the next two years involved no guaranteed money. And no one around the team believed then or think now Lynch will fulfill those two seasons. He signed that extension to get the $5 million more for this past season, upping his total pay including his signing bonus to $12 million in 2015.
I remember talking to Schneider at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last February asking about what Lynch’s plans were for 2015 and beyond. And I can still see the Seahawks GM shrugging in the corridor of Lucas Oil Stadium and saying “I don’t know.” Schneider added in February 2015 he hoped to hear from Lynch sooner than later so he could go on with the team’s other offseason needs.
The Seahawks are in the same situation now. This week, coach Pete Carroll had the same answer when I asked if Lynch would be in his backfield in 2016: “I don’t know.”
The likelihood is remote.
He turns 30 in April. He played just seven games this past regular season, the first injury-filled one of his nine-year career. He had his first major injury and surgery Nov. 25, for an abdominal issue. While he was hurt undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls romped, establishing himself as the heir to Lynch the Seahawks previously lacked and desperately needed.
Rawls broke his ankle and tore ligaments Dec. 13 in the win at Baltimore but said this week he will be ready for the start of next season.
The Seahawks would -- again -- love for Lynch to decide to retire sooner than later, to know how his decision will affect their salary cap for 2016. The five-time Pro Bowl back and 2012 All-Pro is currently scheduled for a base salary of $9 million not guaranteed for 2016, with a cap charge of $11.5 million. Those are numbers he and the Seahawks assuredly will not realize.
Whether he retires or the team releases him Lynch’s cap charge will be $5 million for 2016, a savings of $6.5 million the team can use on other players. If Lynch doesn’t retire by June 1, the team could release him after that and spread its $5 million salary-cap hit across two years; a $2.5 million cap charge this year and a $2.5 million hit against the 2017 cap.
The problem with waiting until June 1 to know or to release him is that the best free agents will have signed elsewhere by then; the free-agent market opens March 9. So it’s probably not worth the $2.5 million in cap space to Schneider and the Seahawks to wait until June to decide on Lynch’s future. If he hasn’t decided to retire by then, the team will likely have asked him to renegotiate his salary to a more cap-friendly number (which he would be unlikely to accept) then released him.
“For us it's a very fluid puzzle,” Schneider said later Friday on KJR-AM radio.
“If he were to come back and wanted to play, sure, we would have to adjust some things.”
Schneider acknowledged to 710 AM he’s no more sure about what Lynch will decide than Carroll, you or I are.
“I would have no idea,” Seattle’s GM said.
If Lynch retires he would be per article 4, section 9 of league’s collective bargaining agreement subject to paying back the final two annual prorated amounts of his $7.5 million signing bonus he received last March, a sum of $5 million. But the Seahawks wouldn’t have to collect that. They have made special financial agreements with him before, such as when they waived the fines the CBA entitled the team to collect for Lynch holding out of training camp in the summer of 2014.
“I just know that we’re going to treat him with as much respect as we possibly can here and give him a little leeway to find his way in terms of what he wants to do,” Schneider said on 710-AM Friday. “But I’m under the impression he’s leaning towards retirement.”
GRAHAM WILL BE BACK
The only two other players Schneider spoke of specifically Friday on the radio were tight end Jimmy Graham and strong safety Kam Chancellor.
Schneider said Graham will be on the team next season, after his Seattle debut season ended with a knee injury in late November then surgery from which he is progressing well, Carroll said this week.
PRAISE -- AMID UNCERTAINTY -- FOR CHANCELLOR
Schneider praised Chancellor, who was not at the top of his game by season’s end particularly in pass coverage, for how he played after he held out throughout the entire training camp and preseason last summer through Seattle’s first two games, losses at St. Louis and Green Bay.
“I thought Kam did a nice job,” Schneider said, citing statistics that showed players coming off extended holdouts often sustained season-ending injuries upon their return. “I was happy he really took super-good care of his body and really was on point the minute he walked though this door and was a pro like he always has been.”
Chancellor could be a salary-cap casualty because of his back-loaded contract that has two, non-guaranteed seasons left on it. The Seahawks could release him at a cap savings of $4.1 million, a fact he knew while holding out and seeking more up-front money last summer.
Schneider didn’t comment on any of that. The GM kept referring to the 17 unrestricted free agents among the 24 Seahawks whose contracts ended with last weekend’s playoff loss at Carolina.
“We are going to take care of our immediate issues,” Schneider said.
“We are going to do whatever we can to try to keep this puzzle together. But we can’t get out of whack, either.”
You can listen to Schneider’s entire interview on 710 ESPN in Seattle that was long on big-picture philosophies and short on specifics here below. His comments on Lynch come at about the 19-20-minute mark: