The Seahawks are not tired of Marshawn Lynch’s “act,” as two unsubstantiated national reports asserted in October.
“No,” Seattle general manager John Schneider said Friday with a wry smile. “I kind of love his act.”
Nine days before the team he and coach Pete Carroll have blown up and reconstructed over five years will play in its second consecutive Super Bowl, Schneider spoke publicly for the first time since May.
The highlights of his 16-minute chat with local beat media inside the Virginia Mason Athletic Center included:
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• His opinions on Lynch, his 1,300-yard, 17-touchdown running back whose four-year contract ends after the 2015 season.
• Schneider saying the team will begin negotiations with Russell Wilson’s agent on possibly extending the franchise quarterback’s contract “at the appropriate time” — which is after this season ends, per league rules for the rookie class of 2012.
• The first-time GM saying cornerback Byron Maxwell is the team’s top offseason priority to re-sign — while acknowledging Maxwell will be in high demand on the unrestricted free-agency market come March.
• And Schneider saying the trade of Percy Harvin was because the $11-million-per-year wide receiver just “didn’t work out.” He added the timing of the deal to the Jets — two days before the Seahawks lost at St. Louis in October — was because New York got “very aggressive” in their offer of a sixth-round pick and picking up Harvin’s contract the night before that Friday trade.
Lynch’s contract for next season currently says he will be due $5 million in base salary with a $2 million roster bonus. The four-year proration of his $6 million contract adds another $1.5 million to Lynch’s total count against Seattle’s salary cap, adding up to $8.5 million for next year.
The Seahawks could renegotiate a more cap-friendly deal with a lower base salary and more cash for Lynch through a signing bonus. But here’s the rub: He turns 29 in April at one of the sport’s most pounding, injury-prone positions. The league is full of stories of running backs whose declines have accelerated at and after 30 years old (see: Shaun Alexander). So if they choose to renegotiate with Lynch, would the Seahawks be willing to offer more than two years in a new contract?
Schneider didn’t offer any hint to that.
“I mean, he’s under contract next year,” the GM said of the NFL’s leading rusher since the 2011 season (5,357 yards). “He’s a warrior. Goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League.”
Lynch has been fined $131,050 this season by the league — $100,000 for not talking to the media in the locker room following the Nov. 16 game at Kansas City, and $11,050 and then $20,000 for grabbing his crotch at the end of touchdown runs in December at Arizona and again last week late in the NFC title game.
He stands to get heftier fines, perhaps in the range of $250,000 per day, next week when he has NFL-mandated media appearances for Super Bowl 49 scheduled in Phoenix on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Expect Lynch to show for those, to avoid the big fines. But he may again not say much more than the “thank you” or “yeah” he’s uttered to each question after some games since that Arizona one, as he’s made something of a mockery of the league’s media policy he obviously disdains.
Schneider said he is staying out of how Lynch conducts himself with the media next week. He’s more focused on how he conducts himself against the New England Patriots’ defense.
“You know, last year, last year we were involved a little bit,” Schneider said of Lynch’s media obligations at Super Bowl 48. “But I think (the Seahawks’ public-relations) staff do a great job with that.
“Really, I honestly can’t get into that. I mean, we have to support everybody, whether it’s Marshawn Lynch or any other player. And we will continue to do that. Regarding, the media, (our PR staffers) do a phenomenal job with that.”
For Wilson, it sounds as if the Seahawks will not let their franchise quarterback play through next season on a lame-duck contract.
“We don’t have a timetable,” Schneider said. “At the appropriate time we are able to speak to his representatives and we’ll do that. We are not in a situation where we can yet.”
Maxwell’s contract ends after the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Asked if he considers re-signing the much-tested — and much-valued — free-agent cornerback opposite All-Pro Richard Sherman as a continuation of recently locking up the young core of his defense, Schneider said: “Yeah, it is.”
“That quite frankly is one of our first priorities, is to talk to Maxie,” the GM said. “Now, I think he, like a lot of our other unrestricted guys, I think he is going to be highly sought after. And he should be. But we would at least like to have the opportunity to retain him.”
The Harvin trade came as the Seahawks were boarding their team buses for the Oct. 19 game at St. Louis; the rest of the players went right in the parking lot of team headquarters that Friday afternoon while Harvin went left to his car and away to New York.
“We took a shot for a highly explosive player,” Schneider said. “For a number of different reasons it didn’t work out. And we knew that we had to resolve that situation as quickly as we could so that we could just move forward as a football team, as an organization.
“It was a very hard decision, one that we didn’t make overnight.”
The Seahawks fell behind 21-3 in the first half two days later against the Rams, and after that 28-26 loss that left Seattle 3-3, many players said they were surprised Harvin was gone.
“I thought everybody handled it as well as it could possibly be, especially that weekend. As far as it affecting that game, I can’t tell you if it did or not,” Schneider said.
“But I know that after that, we were really able to kind of get our feet back under us. The staff did a great job of just getting our team back to playing the type of football we were capable of.”
Schneider was on the sidelines for the final minutes of regulation and then overtime last weekend as the Seahawks scored two touchdowns in the final 2:09 of the fourth quarter against Green Bay. Minutes after Wilson’s pass to Jermaine Kearse in the extra period won the NFC championship, Schneider reflected on all his franchise has accomplished since he arrived in January 2010 from being an assistant executive with Green Bay.
Seattle is the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots to return to the Super Bowl the season after winning it.
“Right after the game was pretty exciting in the locker room, knowing that we were going back and had done something no one else had done in 10 years,” Schneider said. “(It) is pretty special and a true testament to everybody in the football operations, especially the players and the coaches.
“But in terms of thinking about it too much, we’re in a weird time right now. … It’s a great thing we’re in the midst of preparing the game and getting the organization ready to support the football operations moving down to Phoenix. But we’re also getting ready for the draft and free agency. The good thing is we’ve had our free agency meetings already, we did that earlier this year than we did last year, and we’re having our draft meetings starting down there.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Seahawks will be more active in free agency this year.
“I’m just saying we’re more prepared,” Schneider said.