The Curious Case of Marshawn Lynch
Lynch announced his retirement in February. It’s almost April and he and his $11.5 million contract are still on the books. Other players around the league who retired, such as Calvin Johnson and Heath Miller, were all officially processed. So why the delay here?
My thought is probably that the team doesn’t think Lynch is fully committed to retirement. Once Lynch is placed on the retirement list it will be treated on the cap like he is cut. $5 million accelerates onto the cap at that point and is a sunk cost. If Lynch later decides he wants to return then his cap number for the year, because of that acceleration, would be $14 million rather than the current $11.5 million total.
We currently estimate the Seahawks to have around $7.5 million in cap space so losing $2.5 million would put Seattle in a difficult spot. Remember that Seattle has to set aside money for draft picks, roster expansions, injuries, and practice squad members, not to mention having two players, Bennett and Chancellor, who are unhappy with their current contracts, and another, Doug Baldwin, they may want to extend. $2.5 million essentially covers the practice squad, roster expansion to 53, and one injury. Losing that would be difficult.
So rather than risk the loss now it’s probably better to process Lynch on June 2, at which point his acceleration will spread across two seasons. In that case if he decides to come back his cap charge remains at $11.5 million for the year. If he stays retired the Seahawks have $9 extra million to work with rather than $6.5 million. Its just smart business for the Seahawks to wait until June since they don’t need the cap space now.
Possible Contract Holdouts
As discussed above the Seahawks have two players who are unhappy with their contracts. Last year Bennett threatened to hold out and Chancellor actually did hold out. Bennett was unhappy last year at $6 million and his salary this year falls to $5 million, $1 million of which is tied to health, while Chancellor is going to earn about $500,000 more than last year, so both will likely be issues again.
Both players are two years into four year contracts which is the same point when Marshawn Lynch tried to push the issue in 2014 and had moderate success. If Seattle is willing to negotiate I would think that contract will set the foundation for these renegotiations. Essentially the Lynch contract included some shuffling of money from year 4 into year 3 and more friendly incentives.
My guess is they would remove the $1 million in per game roster bonuses for Bennett and add that to his base salary while also increasing his base pay by $1 to $1.5 million this year by bringing some salary from 2017 into 2016. They might convert his $1.5 million in per game bonuses in 2017 to a March roster bonus as well. Chancellor would likely get a similar raise with base salary and per game bonuses in 2017 being pushed into 2016 as part of his base salary. Since this will probably eat up close to $3 million in cap room it is yet another reason why having $9 million from Lynch with a post June retirement works best for Seattle.
I was as shocked as anyone when Bruce Irvin got nearly $10 million from the Raiders. Irvin has some upside and can play multiple positions, which suits the Raiders well, but you can’t blame Seattle on this one. They passed on his option year in part, I would imagine, because of what I said above- they don’t want to pay average talent. They saw Irvin every day for three years and in that time probably didn’t feel he had the necessary upside to pick up that option.
Might that be a mistake? Time will only tell, but there was no way to justify a $9.25 million salary for someone who has had opportunities to be a difference maker on your team and never been that. Irvin’s deal with the Raiders blew past those of the Derrick Morgan types who have had similar career arcs. Even if Irvin does well in Oakland I have a feeling both sides were better off with the move.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.