The Seattle Seahawks have been decidedly mediocre this season, boasting a 4-5 record and in need of a serious turnaround in order to make the playoffs.
Among the team’s many disappointments has been Marshawn Lynch, who has struggled in part because of injuries and also because of an awful offensive line in front of him.
If the Seahawks don’t make the playoffs (and Nate Silver gives them a 38% chance), come the off-season the Seattle front office will have to take a long, hard look at their Beast Mode running back and decide if it’s time to part ways.
Because, injuries and offensive-line woes aside, Lynch is fast approaching 30 and set to earn $US11.5 million next season. That’s a hefty sum for a 30-year-old back with the most mileage of any running back in football over the past four years.
Greg Bishop discussed the Seahawks’ conundrum on Tuesday in the MMQB. From Bishop:
Lynch will present John Schneider, the Seahawks’ general manager, with a dilemma this offseason. He’s a complete back but an older one, a leader who doesn’t strive to lead, and he’s important to the Seahawks for reasons beyond the stat sheet, even as his stats are likely to continue to diminish. Going into the Cardinals game, Lynch ranked 41st out of 49 qualifying backs in yards per carry, at 3.6. Last year, he ranked 13th at 4.7. His average yards after contact were also down, from 2.5 to 1.9, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but that could have resulted from his injuries and the Seahawks’ abysmal line play.
And while statistics can often be misleading, two other numbers matter greatly. One is 1,181 — the number of times Lynch carried the ball over the past four seasons, a league high. The other is $US11.5 million — what Lynch is due next season, according to Spotrac.com. It’s money that, if not paid to Lynch, could be spent elsewhere (captain obvious speaking: to improve the offensive line).
Running back is a notoriously hard-to-predict position, and one could understandably interpret Lynch’s current form as an omen of what’s to come. He’s already missed the same number of games this season (two) as he did all of last season. And the mileage will add up at some point. The $US11.5 million owed to Lynch could go a long way to sure up the offensive line, as Bishop notes, allowing the team to pick up a cheaper running back with fresher legs.
But on the other hand, if the Seahawks do let Lynch go, they could come to instantly regret the decision if Lynch returns to Beast Mode form. Look at Chris Johnson, who prior to signing with the Cardinals this season was long assumed to be finished. But in Arizona, Johnson (who is 30) has found the fountain of youth — currently second in the league in rushing yards behind only Adrian Peterson.
Lynch has shown some signs of improvement over the past three weeks, and if he can return to full health next season, spending the $US11.5 million will be worth it.
In the end, Lynch will determine his own fate in Seattle based on his performance down the stretch. The problem is that running backs are extremely dependent on the line in front of them, and so it will be hard to know what to make of the struggles Lynch may continue to have — or what they will mean for his future.
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