We used to be in there, now we’re out here
Yeah, the Seahawks have run the ball better over the last month than they have at any point in the last five or six years. And yes, Lynch’s never-say-die Beast Mode brings an attitude that Pete Carroll likes. But let’s not put the cart before the horse or start handing out any 14-karat paydays yet.
A running back is only as good as his line in most cases (Barry Sanders being a notable exception), and Lynch has been running off 100-yard games for five weeks because the Seattle line has been giving him room to be beastly.
Even with rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt out, the line has done well. But it remains to be seen how Lynch fares with Russell Okung out.
Whether he can produce as well in the last four games or not, it seems clear the Hawks have turned a corner in the running game in the long term. When Okung returns next year, they should be able to start fast. The question is: Will Lynch be the one carrying the ball?
Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times took a pretty thorough look at Lynch’s potential market value, and we agree with most of what he said. Lynch is not an elite running back, but he is a hard runner in his prime (25) who should be able to last three or four more years despite his aggressive, bruising running style.
Brewer is right that Lynch’s agent surely will use the DeAngelo Williams deal as his negotiation point. Earlier this year, Carolina gave Williams $21 million guaranteed in a five-year deal that could be worth $43 million.
What Brewer didn’t say: The Seahawks probably will counter with Frank Gore’s new deal, which reportedly is worth $25.9 million over four years, with $13.5 million guaranteed.
Lynch is very much like Gore in style and ability, although Lynch has generally been healthier over his career. They are having very similar seasons – before this week, Gore had 203 carries for 909 yards (4.5 average) and five touchdowns, while Lynch had 202 totes for 854 yards (4.2 average) and eight scores. Both have been more effective than Williams, mainly because Carolina simply has not used Williams much (he has about half the carries of Gore and Lynch).
Lynch’s agent probably will point out that Lynch is a bellcow back and deserves the kind of deal Williams got. John Schneider, meanwhile, is likely to retort that Williams would be outplaying Lynch if he got the carries Lynch gets.
In the end, Lynch should get a contract somewhere between Gore’s and Williams’ deals – maybe a four-year pact worth up to $28 million, with $15 million guaranteed. That would be more than fair.
If Lynch’s agent won’t be reasonable, the Hawks should let Lynch test the market rather than franchise him. The franchise tag this year was worth $9.5 million, and Lynch is not worth that because he is not a top-five back.
If he became a free agent, the Seahawks likely would win that gamble. In this passing era where most teams use committee backfields, running backs have been devalued (the position’s franchise value is the fourth lowest) and teams generally have kept their own rather than pay big money to bring guys from elsewhere. Lynch is not likely to get many – if any – teams offering him over $6 million a year.
Williams was pursued by other teams this year because he is a young runner who has big-play speed. But Lynch is a banger who figures to wear down over the next few years and be used up by the time he is 29 or 30. He’s not a great long-term investment.
The Seahawks also should learn from their past. In 2006, they gave NFL MVP Shaun Alexander an eight-year, $62 million contract that paid him $15 million guaranteed. He turned 29 before that season and barely made it through two injury-riddled seasons before the Hawks cut their losses.
Lynch turns 26 in April, so he’s three years younger than Alexander was in 2006 and therefore a better short-term risk. But there’s still no reason to overpay him.
Two former sports reporters freed from the constraints of traditional print media write about the hot topics on both the Seattle and national sports scene. No deadlines, no word count, no press box decorum — we're Outside The Press Box.