The Oakland Raiders are said to be considering pursuing Seahawks legend Marshawn Lynch.
It had probably been too long since there had been a fresh rumor about Marshawn Lynch returning to football, right?
Early Friday morning, both ESPN.com and NFL.com reported that the Oakland Raiders are considering pursuing Lynch, a native of Oakland who famously announced his retirement during Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016.
The two reports set off a day of rumors and speculation, though it was unclear if any of it meant anything will ever really happen.
ESPN.com, for instance, reported that the Raiders are “strongly considering” trying to acquire Lynch while Pro Football Talk reported there is “a very good chance” Lynch could unretire.
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To make any of that happen, though, the Raiders would need the cooperation of the Seahawks, who control Lynch’s rights after placing him on the Reserve/Retired list in May 2016, when Lynch had two years left on his contract.
Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post reported, in fact, that Lynch had been in town Thursday and had asked the Seahawks to give him his outright release so he could sign with the Raiders. One source, though, told the Times, that while Lynch did visit the team facility Thursday while in town for another event, he did not ask for his release.
And, in fact, Lynch would first have to apply for reinstatement from the retired list from the NFL and then be placed back on Seattle’s roster before anything could happen. The Seahawks, though, have not been informed that Lynch has applied for reinstatement — effectively meaning no apparent steps have been taken for Lynch to return to play. Lynch could also be asked to pay back $2.5 million of his signing bonus, the amount that would cover the 2016 season, when he didn’t play, with no indications the Seahawks really might ask for Lynch to write that check to the team to get out of his contract.
In other words, a lot of steps would have to take place before Lynch could return to the field and end up in an Oakland Raider uniform.
If Lynch did unretire, the two teams could work out a trade — assuming the Raiders would want to give up anything for Lynch, which is not a given considering his age (he turns 31 next month) and recent inactivity. Or the Seahawks could release Lynch and make him available as a free agent. Lynch’s $9 million cap hit for the 2017 season, though, would seem to make a trade unlikely — and again, assuming the Raiders would want to give up anything for him — barring a restructuring of the deal. If Lynch were to unretire, that cap hit would immediately go back on Seattle’s ledger for the 2017 season, which would force the Seahawks to do something (Lynch would also be due a base salary of $7 million in 2018 as well as a $3 million roster bonus).
What does not appear to be a consideration is Lynch returning to play for the Seahawks, each side appearing to have decided that relationship is best left with the fond memories of the past.
Seattle general manager John Schneider and Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie are close friends dating to their time working together with the Green Bay Packers, which could help facilitate a deal (though Pro Football Talk floated that the Raiders could be guilty of tampering if they have already talked with Lynch without Seattle’s permission).
But Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported what many others have speculated — that the Raiders would be reluctant to give up much for Lynch, at the most likely offering a conditional seventh-rounder. Rapoport also noted that the Raiders wouldn’t want to pay Lynch much since they are saving money for extensions for quarterback David Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack.
There’s also the matter of whether Lynch really wants to play again.
He turns 31 on April 22 and has said on several occasions he had no intentions of returning to the NFL.
“Loving it,” Lynch said of being retired during a September appearance on Conan. “I’m getting to do a lot of things I’ve never done before” adding that football “had just run its course. I had a great time when I played but, you know, it’s time for something new.”
In a June appearance on 60 Minutes Sports on Showtime Lynch said “I’m retired. Is that good enough? Which camera do you want me to look into? This one? I’m done. I’m not playing football anymore.”
But on that same show, Lynch’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, left the door open for the possibility that is suddenly being rumored — Lynch finishing his career playing for his hometown Raiders.
“If you could write the perfect story as far as the last year of his career if he played again, come back to Oakland,” Hendrickson said then. “It makes sense, right? But the reality is he told me he’s done. Selfishly, I’d love for him to play another year or two to make sure he’s cemented in the Hall of Fame.”
When pressed if that would be Lynch’s final decision, Hendrickson added, “With Marshawn, I’ll never say never, OK?”
ESPN reported that Lynch has “considered” returning to play and that “playing for his hometown team would be an incentive and could influence a decision.”
Rapoport reported that the Raiders inquired about Lynch last season and a trade “nearly happened” but that Lynch decided to stay retired. Rapoport further reported that Lynch is “in shape” and has “thought about playing” again.
Lynch’s devotion to Oakland is well-chronicled and he opened his first Beast Mode clothing store a few miles away from the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, where the Raiders play, during the week of Super Bowl 50.
Despite Lynch’s announced retirement, there were several rumors last season that Lynch might want to return to playing, notably one from Pro Football Talk last September.
Due to Lynch having been placed on the Reserve/Retired List, the Seahawks would own his rights for two more years from the time he would return. Lynch signed a three-year, $31 million extension in March, 2015. Under the terms of his current deal, Lynch would count for $9 million against the salary cap in 2017, though the assumption would be that deal would almost certainly be reworked were he to return (or if he were to be released, he would become a free agent and work out a new contract).
The NFL’s retirement rule states specifically that: “The team can place (a player) on the Reserve/Retired List and retain its rights to the player under the player’s contract. The contract is tolled, so if, for example, a player retires with 2 years remaining on his contract, and is placed on the Reserve/Retired List, then, if he chooses to ‘unretire,’ the player’s rights are still held by the team to the extent of the remaining 2 years of the contract.”
Lynch is fourth all-time in rushing yards for the Seahawks with 6,347, having been acquired in a trade with Buffalo in Oct., 2010 and playing through the 2015 season before retiring.
The Raiders have interest in adding a running back, having lost leading rusher Latavius Murray via free agency earlier this week to the Minnesota Vikings and have been thought also interested in longtime Minnesota standout Adrian Peterson. The Vikings announced Thursday that Peterson will not return now that the team has signed Murray.