Today one of the top sports headlines to break was Marshawn Lynch’s return to the NFL. What?! After taking one season off from playing, Lynch, one of the most prolific running backs of the past decade, is currently negotiating with the Oakland Raiders to play in his hometown. But is Lynch still a valuable commodity in the NFL? Let’s look at some of the facts.
Marshawn Lynch’s Current Value as a Running Back
Lynch turns 31 years old this month and hasn’t played a down in the NFL for almost 18 months. Would he still be a valuable running back? Plenty of analysts seem to think so, but the only running backs in recent memory to have great success at that age are . . . LeGarrette Blount (30), Frank Gore (33), Darren Sproles (33), Danny Woodhead (32), DeAngelo Williams (33), and somewhat Matt Forte (31). One thing all of these players have in common is that they don’t get 20+ touches per game.
Other great players like Jamaal Charles (30), Arian Foster (30), and even Adrian Peterson (32) really fell off once they reached 30 plus years old. You can argue that Peterson hasn’t performed because of offseason issues, but age is clearly one of the reasons that both Peterson and Charles are still a free agents this offseason. Only time will tell if Lynch can still be a workhorse back at age 31.
Do the Raiders Need Lynch?
Besides his age and assuming he has stayed in shape and can get back into NFL form, do the Raiders need Lynch? Although they had great success running the ball last season, the Raider’s lead back, Latavius Murray, is now on the Vikings. This leaves them with 2nd year backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, along with veteran Taiwan Jones.
While Richard and Washington showed a lot of promise in 2016, neither of them are posed to be the workhorse that Lynch has proved to be in the past. With an impressive quarterback and receiving corps, a strong running presence makes the Raiders one of the top team in the AFC. Without Murray, they are in jeopardy of losing the balance of their offense. In this respect, picking up Lynch (or another power back) does make a lot of sense.
Alas, there is more at work than just deciding if the Raider’s should pick up Lynch. A series of events must unfold for him to have a successful return.
The Logistics of Lynch’s Return
Even if the Raiders and Lynch reach an agreement in their negotiations, the Seattle Seahawks still own the rights to Lynch’s contract. Seattle would need to trade the rights to Oakland in order for a deal to be made – something that is definitely not a forgone conclusion.
If you were the Seahawks, would you want to see your Hall of Fame running back on another playoff team? Probably not. Then, once the rights are traded, Lynch will need to apply for reinstatement to the NFL. Even with his shaky past with NFL governance, this should occur fairly easily.
So, is Beast Mode Back?
At this point, it is still up in the air whether Lynch will be back in the NFL for the 2017 season. The biggest potential hurdle that would prevent him playing is the Seattle Seahawks declining to trade the rights to his contract. You can read more about the scenarios with Lynch’s contract rights here.
One thing is clear, even if Lynch does return to the Raiders, it will only be for a year or two. A combination of his age and the impending move to Las Vegas will keep the relationship brief. Personally, I hope he does come back. The power and downhill running style of Lynch is some the Raiders and the fans of the NFL could both benefit from.