Marshawn Lynch once helped lead the Seattle Seahawks to the top of the NFL. Now it looks like he plans to try and do the same for the team he grew up loving in his hometown of Oakland.
On Thursday, reports surfaced that Lynch had applied for reinstatement to the NFL and that the Seahawks and Raiders are closing in on a trade, pending a re-worked contract for Lynch. With a $9 million cap hit in 2017, Lynch would be the second-highest paid running back in the league behind Le'Veon Bell, who is only set to make that much because of the franchise tag. It's not an unreasonable sum for the Lynch who led the NFL in rushing from 2011 to 2014, but now about to turn 31, having not played for a year, and struggling in his final season with Seattle, it's a bit much for Beast Mode as is.
I'm Thankfull!!!! Yes Lawd!!!!— Shawn Lynch (@MoneyLynch) April 14, 2017
However, that does not mean that we won't see a resurgence for Lynch.
The easiest point to make in his favor is simply that Lynch was a transcendent player during his career. Consider that he has 66 more broken tackles than any player since 2013, and that includes missing most of 2015 and all of 2016. Defenders couldn't tackle Lynch, they could only hope to slow him down until five or six teammates had time to arrive and grab an ankle, shoulder or bit of jersey. Sometimes even that wasn't enough. It would seem then that Lynch's body is prone to breaking down sooner, but he has far less mileage than someone like Frank Gore, who has 2,965 career carries compared to 2,144 for Lynch.
Gore had 1,302 total yards and eight touchdowns with the Colts last season. And he did that behind an offensive line that won't touch the quality of what Lynch now has to work with in Oakland.
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn went to his second Pro Bowl and left guard Kelechi Osemele signed a record free agent contract last season (Osemele andcenter Rodney Hudson also made the Pro Bowl). Oakland's line featured the best pass protection in the NFL, per FootballOutsiders, but also ranked in the top 10 in run blocking.
Lynch may need to resolve how to run without having to break so many tackles this time around, and instead of having to revive an offense, he now has to find his place in one of the best in the league.
Quarterback Derek Carr has thrown 60 touchdowns over the last two seasons, while Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree became the first Raiders duo to gain 1,000 yards in the same year since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in 2001. That was back when Lynch was still just a sophomore at Oakland Tech High School, rooting for the Raiders as they lost in the "tuck rule" game that season and then made it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1983 the following year. And that motivation to help his favorite team regain their glory days just as they prepare to jump ship from Oakland to Las Vegas could be the main reason why Lynch is set to be an NFL star one more time.
In an interview this week, Raiders legend John Madden couldn't have summed up the decision to leave Oakland better than he did with the phrase, "Boom, it just goes away." The Raiders may have been in a precarious spot with their dying stadium, they may have been losing more money than they average pro team and perhaps moving to a new city was the right move – albeit a hypocritical one to choose Las Vegas for a league that punishes players for gambling in Las Vegas – but the franchise has spent 43 of their 57 seasons in Oakland and broke the city's heart for a second time just when they started to get good again after 13 years of being historically abysmal.
Lynch is the parting gift they deserve, and a Super Bowl could be coming next.
The Raiders were 12-3 last season before Carr broke his leg and doomed their chances of a deep postseason run. Former Oakland back Latavius Murray is decent, but his desire to break tackles and the reality of how capable he really is of doing so never lined up. Last season, Murray was quoted as saying, "This year I'm just making sure I use my size to my advantage, breaking tackles, trying to run through guys."
That last part, "Trying to run through guys,” really stands out. Probably because Lynch said it first and said it better: "Run through a motherfucker face."
The Raiders have the quarterback, receivers and the offensive line. Now they finally have the back. Lynch managed just 3.8 yards per carry in his last season with Seattle and missed nine games due to injury, but he also just didn't seem that motivated. A contract holdout in 2014 may have been the beginning of what soured the relationship between him and Seattle’s front office, and by 2015 he seemed content with missing games; Pete Carroll said the week before the Seahawks wild card playoff game against the Vikings that Lynch was a full-go in practice and ready to play, then suddenly he was ruled out without much explanation. He'd return in the divisional round against the Panthers, rushing for just 20 yards on six carries, then retired with a tweet during the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Lynch didn't seem hungry in Seattle anymore.
Now Lynch seems ready to jump through hoops to return and finally has his chance to say goodbye to the NFL – and the Raiders the chance to say goodbye to Oakland – in the most appropriate way possible. Going out on top, and at home.