RENTON – The first day of the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp may bring with it the first thing to go wrong as running back Marshawn Lynch was a no-show Friday.
Former Seattle fullback, Michael Robinson, revealed in an interview on Thursday with the NFL Network, that Lynch intended to stay away from the start of camp, until the Seahawks agreed to rework his current contract.
And indeed as of Friday afternoon, failed to report to the Renton area training facility.
Lynch’s close friend and adviser, Robinson, has often been the voice for the media-reticent Lynch the past few years. Lynch had previously skipped the team’s voluntary OTAs back in May in hopes of forcing Seattle to re-open discussions on his current deal, but did attend the team’s mandatory minicamp in June under the belief that it would persuade management to negotiate in good faith.
It did not happen and thus Lynch is right back to the same stance he took several months ago.
Lynch is entering the third year of a four-year, $30 million deal he signed in 2012.
Lynch is scheduled to make $5 million in base salary this year and $5.5 million in 2015, the last year of his deal. However, the hits to the Seahawks’ salary cap are much more substantial at seven million in 2014-15 and nine million for 2015-16, leading Lynch to believe that Seattle will look to cut him before the start of next season, at which time, he will be 29 and with limited options.
Therefore, Lynch is not necessarily pushing for an extension, realizing that expectation might be a bit unrealistic, but is instead seeking to increase his upfront money for this season to give him more of a cushion should he find himself without work next offseason.
Even if Lynch makes it through the length of the deal he will be nearing 30, typically the time when the future of backs is anything but certain.
This is especially true for one that has as physical a style as Lynch does, who has accumulated the most carries in the league (901) since the start of the 2011 season. Over that same span, he has totaled 4,051 yards on the ground to go with 39 touchdowns and has not rushed for less than 1,200 yards in a season.
Just like most astute football enthusiasts, Lynch realizes that Seattle is a run-oriented offense and that this ground-and-pound style, coupled with a similarly aggressive and dominant defense, is what brought the organization its first Super Bowl title last season.
Russell Wilson may be the next big thing, and a capable quarterback, but the Seahawks had the second fewest pass attempts in the league (420) last year and the second most rushing attempts (509).
Considering that Lynch had 315 of those carries his role in that championship can’t be understated. Lynch then proceeded to watch members of the defense – one that totally flustered and frustrated Peyton Manning—be rewarded with lucrative long-term deals for their part in last season’s championship level performance.
Even receiver Doug Baldwin was compensated for his consistent and improving play for the team over the past couple of years. And now, according to Robinson, Lynch is simply looking for the front office to acknowledge and recognize what Lynch has meant to the organization as well – preferably in the form of monetary compensation.
Lynch’s value is at its highest now and he is merely attempting to cash in on that value before his short window closes. And keeping in mind the brief shelf life of a running back in today’s NFL no one can blame him for that.
What may have precipitated Lynch’s final decision to skip the start of camp was the brand new extension the Kansas City Chiefs just gave to their do-it-all back Jamal Charles after he threatened to hold out from training camp as well. Charles, just eight months younger than Lynch, has had a similar workload and production level as Lynch the past two years and saw his 2014 salary jump from $3.9 million to $8.3 million with the new contract.
The difference in the two situations is the resolve of the Seahawks front office and coaching staff that the team is not just about one guy and the belief – at least publicly – that 2013 second-round pick Christine Michael is ready to have a breakout season and, coupled with the more bruising style of Robert Turbin, Seattle will make due for as long as needed, until Lynch decides to rejoin the team.
GM John Schneider specifically took the ‘next man up’ approach when asked about Lynch’s absence Friday morning and made it clear that he believes that Lynch was the first one to reap the benefits of the organization’s new team building philosophy with his original contract back in 2012.
Lynch’s contract is the fifth highest in the league among running backs and Schneider views this as more than fair compensation.
With all the money the team doled out in the offseason to defensive end Michael Bennett, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and with an expensive and long-term deal still waiting to be negotiated and signed with Wilson, Seattle is not interested in tying up their money in an aging running back – no matter how important he has been to the team’s recent success.
Moreover, the Seattle front office has a policy against re-working deals that still have a year remaining on them. So while Charles’ hedge may have worked for him it shouldn’t be expected to have the same effect in this case.
Seattle is the more complete team with a more consistent defense, a quarterback with a higher potential for growth, and more offensive weapons than the Chiefs now have on their roster.
Considering that the Seahawks were looking to keep his carries and workload during training camp and preseason games to a minimum anyway, they might not view Lynch’s holdout as a pressing matter and believe that they can wait him out.
After all, Lynch loses $30,000 for every day that he is not at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center with the rest of his teammates and stands to lose a good part of his $6 million signing bonus as well.
For a player looking to maximize his short-term earnings, holding out works directly against that goal.
Once again, the team holds the majority of the leverage in this situation and we should expect to see Lynch back in Renton before the Seahawks first preseason game – with or without a new contract.
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