Would Marshawn Lynch really retire at age 29 rather than take a raise on a new Seahawks contract?
Will Russell Wilson take a unique “hometown discount” instead of the league’s richest deal for a quarterback, to give his team the financial flexibility to reload a two-time defending NFC champion this offseason?
As general manager John Schneider said Tuesday: “We talk about being a consistent championship-caliber football team, and that means thinking outside the box a lot of times.
“You do not just do exactly what everyone else has done around the league. … That’s part of our fabric.”
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Schneider raised two new possibilities of contract results with Lynch and Wilson, the cornerstones of the franchise, while talking on the “Brock and Salk” show on 710-AM ESPN radio in Seattle.
As he said to beat reporters a couple weeks ago, Schneider reiterated Tuesday how huge Lynch is to the Seahawks’ plans for the 2015 season and beyond. Including playoffs, Lynch racked up a career-high 2,054 yards from scrimmage and led the league in total TDs with 19 this past season. He came perhaps within one more goal-line carry of being Super Bowl 49’s most valuable player on Feb. 1. He has this coming season left on his four-year contract.
“Obviously, we think he’s a hell of a player. We want to have him back. He knows that. His representatives know that,” Schneider said on the radio. “He knows that if he’s back he’s not going to be playing at the same number he’s scheduled to make.
“He’s a guy that is a heartbeat guy that we’d love to have back.”
That “number” is the $5 million in base salary with a $2 million roster bonus he will get if he is on the 46-man active roster for each of the 16 regular-season games this fall. Including the signing bonus prorated over his current, four-year contract that ends after the 2015 season, Lynch is scheduled to count $8.5 million against the Seahawks’ salary cap this coming league year.
The Seahawks are willing to give Lynch an extension beyond this final year with a more cap-friendly number — a raise through new bonuses to perhaps approaching $10 million cash, then perhaps flat salaries with prorated bonuses over the rest of a new deal.
Two rubs here:
The first is how long the Seahawks will want to make any new contract. Lynch turns 29 in April. No one in the league has carried the ball more, or in a more ferocious style, since 2011. The Seahawks franchise — albeit under a previous regime — has lived through the history-proven, off-the-cliff drop in production from running backs over the age of 30 with Shaun Alexander eight years ago. That was after the 2005 NFL MVP signed what was in 2006 the richest deal ever for a running back.
Lynch will undoubtedly be seeking more than two years in any new deal.
But Schneider on Tuesday brought up the second — and decisive — hurdle to negotiations this offseason: Does Lynch even want to play anymore?
Could he retire before training camp begins in July?
“Now, whether or not he wants to play next year, I can’t answer that. I don’t know if he knows at this juncture,” Schneider told 710 ESPN.
Schneider acknowledged the fundamental question of whether Lynch wants to play is one he’s asking the running back’s agent in talks this offseason.
“I think he needs to find out where he’s at,” the GM said. “It’s hard for these guys. It’s a long season. We’ve played a lot of football these last two years (38 games including postseasons), and especially the way this guy runs the ball it’s taxing on his body. So he has to reset himself and get in that mind frame of, ‘OK, I’m ready to get moving here again and get prepared for another season of this.’ ”
Lynch held out for the first eight days of training camp last July to get a new deal. The Seahawks didn’t give him one but eventually turned $1.5 million in future bonuses into more cash for him last summer.
Schneider said the team didn’t give Lynch a new deal last offseason, two years into a four-year contract, to avoid setting a precedent. He didn’t want every subsequent Seahawk that produces midway through a deal lining up outside his office asking for the Lynch treatment too soon before the guy’s current deal plays out.
“He knows that,” Schneider said. “But he also knows he’s a huge part of what we are doing. He’s just extremely important to what we have going on here — and moving forward to the decisions we make this offseason.
“Obviously we’d like to have a decision as we could, so we could move forward. But we’d love to have him back.”
Schneider didn’t raise this possibility so high last month, so presumably something he’s learned between then and now has made the GM consider the possibility of Lynch retiring this offseason.
The Seahawks are willing to wait for Lynch to make up his mind. But the sooner they know what he wants to do, the sooner the team can get Wilson’s new contract done. The sooner it can begin taking care of All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, whose contract also ends after 2015. The sooner it will know how much it has to offer unrestricted free agent Byron Maxwell to stay and what it can afford to sign outside free agents this offseason.
Schneider also raised the possibility of Wilson accepting something of a “hometown discount” below the $20 million plus per season most have assumed the only quarterback to start two Super Bowls in the first three seasons of a career is about to get. The GM and Wilson’s agent are already in negotiations on a new deal; his rookie one scheduled to pay him less than $800,000 this year ends following the 2015 season.
“I think Russell Wilson wants to win championships.” Schneider said. “Russell knows there are certain dominoes that have to fall in line or fall in place.
“He knows it. He gets it. He wants to win. He wants to win for a long time.”
Schneider, of course, won’t go into the specifics of his talks with the quarterback’s agent, Mark Rodgers. But the GM said of the negotiations on Wilson’s new deal — which some have estimated will result in Wilson getting a contract worth more than the $22 million per year Aaron Rodgers gets from Green Bay — will be unique.
Just as most of what he’s built with Carroll in Seattle has been.
COACH SETO GETS A PROMOTION
The Seahawks have promoted Rocky Seto from defensive passing game coordinator to assistant head coach/defense. Seto has been with Carroll since he was Carroll’s defensive coordinator at USC in 2009. Seto’s background is in coaching the secondary, and that’s where he’ll likely spend most of his time now that former defensive backs coach Kris Richard is the new defensive coordinator.
SHERMAN DOESN’T THINK HE’LL NEED SURGERY
Richard Sherman told USA Today “I’m really confident I’ll be fine,” and that he doesn’t think he will need elbow surgery to fix a torn ligament. The All-Pro cornerback played the last quarter of the NFC championship game last month and then the Super Bowl with the injury, and Carroll had said the day after the final game Sherman may need ligament-replacement surgery.
Renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews told Sherman he could heal the elbow during the offseason without an operation.