Marshawn Lynch was present for the Seahawks' mandatory minicamp, even though an ankle injury kept him out of action, and the question now is whether he and the team have a wink-nod agreement about adjusting his contract.
Reports last week indicated Lynch wanted a pay raise off the $5.5 million he is scheduled to make next season, and Jordan Babineaux -- a former Seahawk now working for NFL Network -- told KJR that Lynch wanted a "small token of appreciation” from the Seahawks. (Apparently, the $17 million he has been paid the past two years was not enough appreciation.)
On Tuesday, coach Pete Carroll cited team policy of not discussing contracts publicly, but it would not be surprising if the Hawks were willing to give Lynch his "token." General manager John Schneider was photographed greeting Lynch at practice -- a possible sign that something is being worked out (OK, maybe it was just a normal greeting with no underlying message).
The Hawks are not obligated to do it, of course, and conventional wisdom says they won't. But since when do they follow con-wis?
After signing defensive tackle Kevin Williams to a deal reportedly worth around $2 million, the Hawks likely have around $7 million remaining under the salary cap -- which means maybe $2 million in discretionary spending. They could use that to bump Lynch's 2014 pay.
While they are doing that, they also could void Lynch's 2015 season to remove his $7.5 million in salary and roster bonuses from next year's cap -- basically making this a contract year for Lynch.
If they need more room to do an extension for K.J. Wright, for example, they could easily restructure Percy Harvin's contract, which calls for an $11 million salary this year (they could pay Harvin $5 million up front to get $4 million in cap space). Or they could extend Cliff Avril's deal, which expires after next season.
Some people think the Seahawks would be setting a bad precedent by capitulating to Lynch's request for a raise. But Schneider and Carroll have hardly cared about that in the past.
When Chris Clemons held out of minicamp in 2012, they gave him a new contract (granted, it was his only extension with the team after two great seasons). They also gave Brandon Browner a minor raise after the 2012 season even though they had no obligation to. Then they paid a boatload of money to Harvin, which Golden Tate then referred to this offseason when complaining that Seattle lowballed him. The Hawks also made Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas the best-paid players at their positions. And don't forget: They paid rookie Garrett Scott his signing bonus even though he might not ever play football again due to a heart condition.
The Seahawks take care of their top players (and others), and they certainly consider Lynch one of their best.
"Marshawn has really been the guy for us," Carroll said, "and we love everything about the way he plays and what he brings to this team. He has never taken a step backwards at any time for us in all the time that we’ve been here.”
Whether they give him a pay raise or not, one thing is certain: The Hawks will not wear out Lynch before the season starts.
"He takes a big pounding during the year," Carroll said. "It takes him a long time to get his body back to where he doesn’t feel the rigors of the season. … But he is a unique player and he has a unique role on our football team. We’ll do what we have to do to take care of him. You won’t see him get the ball a lot in preseason. We’ll work all the way to opening day to have him right and ready to go. That’s most important.”
If the Hawks choose not to show further appreciation to Lynch for all of his Beast Mode action and Lynch decides to hold out or retire, don't cry into your Skittles. Assistant head coach Tom Cable said the Hawks don't absolutely have to have Lynch.
Backups Robert Turbin and Christine Michael have taken big steps this offseason, Cable told 710 ESPN on Tuesday. "I have been impressed by both those guys. Robert has taken his game to another notch."
Cable said Turbin is fully indoctrinated into the zone running system and has learned to run efficiently, and Michael is more disciplined and accountable entering his second year.
"In this system, we've never not had a good back," Cable said, pointing out that even lightly regarded Justin Fargas eclipsed 1,000 yards in Cable's system in Oakland.
"Whoever it is can go for a thousand. I'm not worried about that so much," Cable said. "What I'm worried about is being able to do the things that are necessary in terms of ball security, being the leader in the backfield, closing out games. And that’s one of the beauties of Marshawn. Hopefully he's with us. If he's not, then we move on. That's fine."