In what is to date the only firm indication that Marshawn Lynch’s comeback is an actual possibility, the former Seahawks running back reportedly visited with the Raiders on Wednesday and told the team he intends to come out of retirement.
News that Lynch was at the Raiders’ facility was broken by, of all people, recently retired NFL punter Pat McAfee. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported it was a feeling-out visit in which Lynch met with Raiders coach Jack Del Rio and told the team he plans to un-retire after a year away from football. Lynch is widely believed to only be interested in playing for the Raiders, his hometown team. Seahawks general manager John Schneider confirmed as much during an interview that aired Wednesday on “Bob, Groz and Tom.”
Schneider also said he’s discussed the situation with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, with whom he has a close relationship from their days together in the Packers’ front office.
“We’ve had dialogue about it,” Schneider said, referring to he and McKenzie. “Marshawn is trying to figure things out, the Raiders are trying to figure things out. My understanding is that if he would want to come back and play that it would be for the Raiders and that would be it.”
While the report that Lynch has stated his intention to un-retire is a significant development in his possible comeback, quite a bit would have to happen before it would become a reality. Most significantly, the Seahawks would either have to trade him or release him if they couldn’t work out a deal with Oakland.
The Seahawks control Lynch’s rights because he had two years remaining on his contract when he retired last offseason. If Lynch wanted to un-retire, he’d first have to apply for and be granted reinstatement from the NFL. His contract would pick up where it left off, with a $9 million base salary and cap hit for the 2017 season. Even if Lynch wanted to play for Seattle – and again, all indications are that he’s only interested in playing for Oakland – that would be a prohibitive amount of money for the Seahawks.
Consider: a) Lynch will be 31 years old and a year removed from a season in which he played in only seven games because of injuries; b) the Seahawks don’t have much cap space remaining; and c) they’ve already paid Eddie Lacy to round out their backfield in 2017.
Hence, the Seahawks would have to either trade Lynch or cut him. And with Seattle holding little leverage in trade negotiations considering how untenable his contract would be to the Seahawks if he were to remain on their roster in the absence of a deal, it’s likely that whatever compensation they could get for Lynch would be minimal, perhaps a seventh-round pick if anything at all. The Raiders actually have Seattle’s 2017 seventh-round pick; the Seahawks gave it up in a trade before the start of last season for linebacker Dewey McDonald.
Interestingly, Schneider has gone through something of a similar situation before. He was with the Packers during the tail end of Brett Favre’s career in Green Bay, when the quarterback famously vacillated each offseason about whether or not he wanted to continue playing. When Favre retired after the 2007 season and then decided he wanted to come back, Schneider said he worked on possible trades (Green Bay eventually dealt Favre to the Jets).
“You’re talking about guys that are highly, highly popular football players in the National Football League, and as an organization, there’s that balance,” he said. “You’ve got to do the right thing by the organization first and player second. The Brett Favre thing for us in Green Bay was a very difficult deal because there was a ton of love there; he did phenomenal things, he never missed games. It just took him a little while every offseason to get prepared mentally to come back for the fall.”
Something worth keeping in mind here is the possibility that Lynch is only stoking the comeback talk in order to keep his name in the news with an eye toward furthering his business ventures. Those include his clothing line and a production company, which is releasing its first film on Thursday. The film is set in Oakland and will premiere there.
If Lynch is indeed serious about coming out of retirement to play for Oakland, one reason to believe a trade is still possible despite Seattle’s lack of leverage is what Schneider called a “great relationship” between he and McKenzie. Schneider noted that the two shared an office in Green Bay for eight seasons. ESPN’s Andrew Brandt, who was worked in the Packers’ front office along with Schneider and McKenzie, tweeted Wednesday that the two are as close as any general managers in the NFL.
Perhaps somewhat indicative of that relationship is how the teams have made three trades since McKenzie joined the Raiders in 2012. The Seahawks acquired then-quarterback Terrelle Pryor in 2014 and McDonald last year. They sent quarterback Matt Flynn to Oakland in 2013.
“I’m not exactly sure where Marshawn’s at right now and I’m not exactly sure where the Raiders are at,” Schneider said. “So I think it’s just a process, but I think it’s one that will go in a smooth manner because of our relationship.”