Making news while still in mute mode, Marshawn Lynch is the subject of reports that he’s either getting a big raise from the Seattle Seahawks or on the verge of retiring.
The talk and posturing may continue for months, but if logic and form hold true, he’ll be on the field in September.
Maybe Lynch hasn’t planned his future past getting some rest and healing up.
But the disjointed dialogue is ongoing, as the various mouthpieces for the various sources are as active as they have been over the past year, releasing whatever tidbits suit their motives and stirring the debate over the laconic Lynch.
Obviously, what happens with Lynch between now and opening day 2015 will have a significant effect on the roster’s composition as the Seahawks attempt to defend their two consecutive NFC championships.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported at midseason that the Hawks were ready to move on from Lynch in 2015. Recently, though, he claimed the Hawks offered a “monster” contract extension for Lynch that would include more than $10 million for 2015.
Former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, who has served as the Marshawn Whisperer for years, recently told ESPN 710-AM that “Marshawn is getting to the point in his life where he may want to enjoy other things that are important to him.”
Yes, Robinson said, Marshawn “knows he has the leverage; he knows that he’s the best back in the league.”
Lynch also may be the least predictable player in the NFL. Whether cultivated intentionally or just a matter of his personality, it works in his favor. The Seahawks have to avoid the situation where they open training camp and Lynch decides in the 11th hour to retire.
That unpredictability had to be part of the speculation the Seahawks were ready to move on. Lynch was aging, his pile-driving style surely likely to hasten the process.
He didn’t show up for the start of the last training camp, and it was easy to see the Hawks hoping that one or two backs with younger legs and smaller contracts would be ready by 2015.
But Lynch earned whatever leverage he now holds by being more effective and versatile in 2014 than at any other point in his career.
What evidence do we have that he’d walk away from a potential $10 million for next season?
Let’s first examine his sparse personal insights. His Super Bowl-week interview redundancy — “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” — emphatically proves that, yes, money definitely matters to him.
While not verbally communicating, he still sat in place during mandated interview sessions Super Bowl week to avoid weighty fines from the league.
If he retires before next season, he is, in essence, fining himself $10 million.
Another favorite dictum — “I’m all about that action, boss” — professes a love for the game itself. That’s surely supported by his aggressive running style every week of every season.
That suggests that he would miss suiting up and bashing into people if he retired. Despite a variety of injuries, he’s missed only one game in the past five seasons.
We can only imagine what it’s like to get himself ready to play every week. Pain has to be considered as a disincentive that gets more convincing every year.
He will be 29 next season. And the inevitable decline for a running back generally is abrupt.
He showed no signs of it this season, but how will Lynch respond when he recognizes that it’s harder to shift into Beast Mode? Imagine the jolt to somebody who plays so fearlessly to suddenly feel somewhat less beastly.
It’s unclear if Lynch has considered his legacy, which could be a factor in his decision.
Recent Hall of Fame backs Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk and Curtis Martin all had considerably more career rushing yards than Lynch’s current 8,695 (71 rushing touchdowns). But they also played for 11 seasons or more.
Lynch’s style and importance to the Seahawks’ emergence enhances his status. A few more years and the gold jacket seems more likely.
It’s that bludgeoning style, though, that might cause him to be evaluated by different metrics: those, for instance, that put Earl Campbell and Larry Csonka in the Hall.
Lynch already has more combined rushing and receiving yards (10,594) than Campbell (10,213), and more rushing yards and TDs than Csonka (8,081, 68 TDs). His five Pro Bowl honors matches Campbell and Csonka, too.
Really, Lynch might play another five seasons or disappear henceforth without a word.
Robinson offers the most reasonable speculation. “My bet,” he said, “would be that he plays next year in Seattle.”
I agree. But not without some drama in the interim.