Wait, isn’t Groundhog Day not until next month?
Not for the Seahawks.
Their general manager, John Schneider, said Friday morning on Seattle radio that he believes Marshawn Lynch will retire.
“I’m under the impression he’s leaning towards retirement,” Schneider said on 710-AM.
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That leaves the Seahawks in the same spot they were in at this time last year. And the year before that.
Waiting. And not knowing.
Schneider went on to admit to the “Brock and Salk” show that he and the team don’t know what Lynch might do regarding next season.
“I would have no idea,” Seattle’s GM said.
It’s not as if Lynch has Schneider and Seahawks headquarters on speed dial throughout this or any offseason. The star running back usually doesn’t make contact with team officials until he shows up (or not) on the first day of a mandatory minicamp, usually in May.
Lynch floated the possibility of retirement during each of the previous two offseasons. That resulted in Lynch getting $1.5 million in future money up front in 2014 to end his weeklong holdout from training camp, and getting an additional $5 million for 2015 in a two-year contract extension last March. That deal runs through the 2017 season, but the next two years involve no guaranteed money.
No one around the team believed then or thinks now that Lynch will fulfill those two seasons. He signed that extension to get the $5 million more for this past season, upping his total pay, including his signing bonus, to $12 million for 2015.
Last February at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Schneider was asked, amid a small group of Seattle-area reporters, what Lynch’s plans were for 2015 and beyond. The Seahawks GM shrugged in the corridor of Lucas Oil Stadium and said: “I don’t know.”
Schneider added then that he hoped to hear from Lynch — sooner rather than later — so he could go on with the team’s other offseason needs.
The Seahawks are in the same situation now. This week, coach Pete Carroll had the same answer when asked if Lynch would be in his backfield in 2016: “I don’t know.”
The likelihood is remote.
Lynch turns 30 in April. He played in only seven games in this past regular season, the first injury-filled one of his nine-year career. He had surgery on Nov. 25 for an abdominal issue.
While he was hurt, undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls romped, establishing himself as the heir to Lynch — an heir the Seahawks previously lacked.
Rawls broke his ankle and tore ligaments on Dec. 13 in a win at Baltimore, but said this week that he will be ready for the start of next season.
The Seahawks would love for Lynch to decide to retire sooner rather than later — again — so they would know how his decision would affect their salary cap for 2016. The five-time Pro Bowl back and 2012 All-Pro is scheduled for a base salary of $9 million, not guaranteed for next season, with a cap charge of $11.5 million. He and the Seahawks assuredly will not realize those numbers.
Whether he retires or the team releases him, Lynch’s cap charge will be $5 million for 2016, a savings of $6.5 million that the team can use on other players. If Lynch doesn’t retire by June 1, the team could release him after that and spread its $5 million salary-cap hit across two years; a $2.5 million cap charge this year and a $2.5 million hit against the 2017 cap.
The problem with waiting until June 1 is that the best free agents will have signed elsewhere by then; the free-agent market opens March 9.
So it’s probably not worth the $2.5 million in cap space for Schneider and the Seahawks to wait until June to decide on Lynch’s future. If he hasn’t decided to retire by then, the team likely will have asked him to renegotiate his salary to a more cap-friendly number (which he would be unlikely to accept) or will have released him.
If Lynch retires, he would be subject to paying back the remaining proration on his $7.5 million signing bonus from that extension last March, a sum of $5 million. But the Seahawks wouldn’t have to collect that. They have made special financial agreements with him before, such as when they waived the fines that the league’s collective bargaining agreement entitled the team to collect after Lynch held out during the first week of 2014’s training camp.
“I just know that we’re going to treat him with as much respect as we possibly can here and give him a little leeway to find his way in terms of what he wants to do,” Schneider said on 710-AM. “But I’m under the impression he’s leaning towards retirement.”
GRAHAM WILL BE BACK
The only two other players who Schneider spoke of specifically Friday on the radio were tight end Jimmy Graham and strong safety Kam Chancellor.
Schneider said Graham will be on the team next season, and that some of his early-season struggles in 2015 came as the offense around him struggled as a whole. Graham’s debut season with the Seahawks ended with a torn patellar tendon in his knee in late November. He then had surgery from which he is progressing well, Carroll said this week.
“He’s thrilled to be off the crutches and is getting going. He’s very dedicated to the process of it and is doing some cool, innovative things,” Carroll said. “He’s doing all the stuff that you can possibly do to get well. He’s back in Florida right now doing some things. … It matters to the nth degree to him that he does it well and properly. I think he’s going to take advantage of all of that to give us a real shot to get him back.”
Graham is due to count $9 million against Seattle’s salary cap in 2016, the next-to-last season of the $40 million, four-year contract he signed with New Orleans before the 2014 season.
PRAISE, UNCERTAINTY FOR CHANCELLOR
Schneider praised Chancellor for how he played after he held out throughtraining camp, preseason and the first two regular-season games.
“I thought Kam did a nice job,” Schneider said, citing statistics that show players coming off extended holdouts often sustain season-ending injuries upon their return. “I was happy he really took super good care of his body and really was on point the minute he walked though this door and was a pro like he always has been.”
However, the veteran strong safety, who turns 28 in April, was not at the top of his game by season’s end, particularly in pass coverage.
Chancellor could be a salary-cap casualty because of his back-loaded contract that has two, nonguaranteed seasons left on it. The Seahawks could release him at a cap savings of $4.1 million, a fact he knew while holding out and seeking more up-front money.
Schneider didn’t comment on any of that. The general manager kept referring to the 17 unrestricted free agents who are pending among the 24 Seahawks whose contracts ended with last weekend’s playoff loss at Carolina.
“We are going to take care of our immediate issues,” Schneider said.
“We are going to do whatever we can to try to keep this puzzle together. But we can’t get out of whack, either.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle