Seahawks have options but little trade leverage if Marshawn Lynch returns
Since news broke last week that the Oakland Raiders were interested in acquiring retired running back Marshawn Lynch, there have been a lot of questions about what Lynch's return would mean for the Seattle Seahawks.
Below is a Q&A that takes a closer look at a potential Lynch return.
What needs to happen for Lynch to return?
Lynch filed his retirement paperwork last May and was placed on the retired/reserve list. If he decides that he wants to play again, the first thing that he needs to do is apply for reinstatement. Until Lynch does that, nothing else can happen.
What happens if he's granted reinstatement?
When a player retires, his contract essentially freezes. If Lynch is granted reinstatement, the terms of his last deal would immediately go into effect. That would mean he'd be under the Seahawks' control for two years.
Lynch would be due $9 million in 2017 and $10 million ($7 million salary and $3 million roster bonus) in 2018.
At that point, what would the Seahawks' options be?
They would have three options: keep Lynch on the roster, trade him or release him.
What would need to happen for the Seahawks to trade him to the Raiders?
First, the Raiders would have to come to terms on a contract with Lynch. Would they be willing to acquire him under the terms of his current deal? Given that Lynch would be due $9 million (both salary and cap hit) in 2017, that seems unlikely. If the Raiders really wanted Lynch, they would have to work out a restructured deal with him.
Secondly, Oakland and Seattle would have to agree to compensation. The last time Lynch played in 2015, he missed nine games and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. He'll turn 31 next month and was out of football last season.
Do the Raiders want him so badly that they'd be willing to give up draft capital to acquire him? Or are they just interested in taking a flier on him and seeing what he has left? The latter seems more likely.
Do the Seahawks have any leverage to force a trade?
The Seahawks could say that they're not going to release Lynch. But then what happens? He shows up to the team facility? They put on a charade and pretend that they're willing to keep him on the roster?
Keep in mind that going this route would mean Lynch's $9 million being added to their salary cap. The Seahawks currently have under $15 million in cap space. They are still looking at free-agent options and need space to sign their draft picks.
In other words, it would seem pretty easy for the Raiders to be patient and call the Seahawks' bluff.
Why couldn't Lynch play for the Seahawks?
There's been zero indication from either side that this is a possibility. The Seahawks just signed Eddie Lacy and have Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise on their roster. Even if the Seahawks wanted Lynch to play for them again, they wouldn't want him at $9 million, and they couldn't force him to redo his contract.
The allure of returning for Lynch appears to be to play for his hometown Raiders.
In other words, this isn't happening. Lynch has played his last game for the Seahawks.
What impact would the Seahawks releasing Lynch have on their cap?
Zero. Lynch is off their books. If they release him, their cap situation will be unchanged.
What about the $5 million in remaining signing bonus that Lynch had on his deal?
Lynch's renegotiated contract in 2015 included a $7.5 million signing bonus, which was prorated over three years. Lynch only played one of those years before retiring, meaning that the Seahawks could have asked for the remaining $5 million back. According to NFL.com, though, they did not do that and let Lynch keep the full signing bonus.
If Lynch plays for the Raiders, the Seahawks could decide to ask for a portion of that money back. But this has no impact on Seattle's cap. The Seahawks accounted for the dead money that was left on Lynch's contract last year.