Many veteran running backs have seen very little attention on the free agent market this offseason, but ironically, a 30-year-old back who wasn’t in the league last season has one interested party.
ESPN reported Friday that the Oakland Raiders are “strongly considering” acquiring Marshawn Lynch, who is still under contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Lynch retired in Feb. 2016 and has two years left on his current deal with Seattle.
There are still several things, including his contract with the Seahawks, that could prevent this marriage from happening but on paper, it’s an ideal fit for both parties.
Lynch was the best bruising running back of his era, but he appeared out of gas in 2015 when injuries plagued him throughout the season. And when he was on the field, Lynch was ineffective.
From 2011-14, he made the Pro Bowl every single year and posted a 4.5 yard-per-carry average. In 2015, Lynch recorded just 3.8 yards per attempt.
But after a year of rest, the bruiser should be relatively fresh. The NFL saw Adrian Peterson return from his season-long suspension in 2014 to lead the NFL in rushing the following season at age 30. The fresh legs could have made a difference, and there’s no guarantee Lynch experiences a similar resurgence after the time away, but the possibility exists.
Plus, Oakland doesn’t have to count on Lynch for 250-300 carries. In fact, 100-150 from the former All-Pro would be enough to make his addition worth it.
Essentially, Lynch would be replacing Latavius Murray, who left in free agency and carried the ball 195 times last season. But Oakland also has DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, who were both rookies last season, on the roster. They each averaged over 5.3 yards per carry in limited action (87 attempts for Washington and 83 for Richard). The workload for both could very easily increase, eating up as much as half of Murray’s 228 total touches.
That reduced workload would keep Lynch healthy over the course of a four-month season. He could start and specialize in short-yardage situations. While he was an underrated pass-catcher in Seattle, the Raiders don’t even have to use him in passing situations if they don’t want to.
Where Oakland needs Lynch the most is on the goal line. Murray scored 12 touchdowns in 2016, 11 of which came inside the opponents’ 10-yard line. Incredibly, 6 of Murray’s scores (or half) were 1-yard runs. While Washington and Richard are capable of taking more carries, they don’t have enough power to be effective in short yardage situations.
Signing Lynch would provide that short yardage presence. He has had at least 10 rushing touchdowns in four straight years from 2011-2014. It’s possible that, as far as short-yardage goes, Lynch will be an upgrade over Murray in 2017.
Of course, the most obvious thing connecting the Raiders and Lynch is his ties to the area. The 30-year-old is from Oakland, Calif. and went to the University of California, Berkley for school. He remains an active leader in the community and hasn’t been shy about expressing his Oakland pride in the past. There’s a good chance that if Lynch can’t earn a job with the Raiders, he will simply remain retired.
It wouldn’t be a bad PR move for a team that might find it difficult to sell tickets if the relocation rumors continue.
However, those moving reports could also turn off Lynch. If he truly is only interested in the Raiders because they are in his hometown, his desire to return could greatly diminish.
That, along with whether he truly wants to play and if Seattle is willing to part ways with him, remains to be seen. But at least in a hypothetical world, Lynch is a perfect fit for the Raiders.