Last Friday, the Seattle Seahawks released running back LenDale White, a player they had acquired from Tennessee during the 2010 NFL Draft. White, who had been re-united with college head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle, was released due to an impending four-game suspension, according to reports.
Naturally, when the move was announced, fans and experts everywhere began to link the Seahawks to Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch. Seattle reportedly pursued Lynch heavily in the weeks leading up to the draft, as well as during the draft, and the Bills apparently turned down at least one serious offer from Seattle during that process. Seattle traded for two backs on draft weekend, securing the rights to Leon Washington, as well.
I've gotten emails and inquiries by the dozens on this particular topic, so in an effort to give my Inbox and cell phone a little vacation, I'm running these down Q&A style.
Q: Brian, what do you make of the Lynch trade stories? Have we ever heard of him officially being on the block?
I'm glad this anonymous emailer asked the question in this manner, because this is the true heart of this story: it seems likely to me that Lynch has never truly been available to other teams.
Trade whispers have surrounded Lynch all off-season - even prior to the Bills' selection of C.J. Spiller in the first round of April's draft - and not once have I, personally, put any stock in it. It certainly makes sense; Lynch is still something of a valuable commodity, the Bills have needs to address, and it wouldn't be a poor business decision to flip Lynch for something that might be useful to you either now or down the line.
My sense, however, is that GM Buddy Nix doesn't see it that way. Buffalo spent its off-season "stacking players on players" across its entire roster, and that includes at running back, where the team has three players that could be considered legitimate starters. Unless Nix was blown away by an offer - clearly, to this point, he hasn't been - I don't know why he'd move one of the only proven offensive commodities on the roster for the type of compensation most would be willing to flip for him.
Lynch himself admitted that Nix has told him that he won't be moved. Granted, Lynch disclosed that detail prior to White's release in Seattle, and Nix might not hesitate to rescind those words if the right offer came along. But I'll defer to the two guys most in-the-know on this one - I don't think Lynch will be moved, and I don't think he was ever truly made available to begin with.
Q: Brian, would it make sense for the Seahawks to trade for Lynch?
Another excellently worded question. The usual "will the Seahawks trade for Lynch?" lines that roll through my Inbox make me laugh, because I can't possibly fathom how anyone would expect me to know the answer to that question. I cannot see the future, my friends.
It definitely would make sense for Seattle to pursue Lynch, and obviously, they already have to some extent this off-season. White's release leaves the Seahawks with Justin Forsett, Julius Jones and Washington comprising their running back depth. Washington's recuperation from a compound leg fracture will impact whether or not Seattle's interest increases, and all indications are that Washington is recovering well. Seattle has an underrated back in the mold of our own Fred Jackson in Forsett, who'll never be a star, but has shown that he can be highly productive (969 total yards, 5 TD in 2009).
Forsett is a fantastic fit for Seattle's offensive scheme, and Washington is a solid complement capable of making big plays. Assuming Washington's good health, I see no reason Seattle needs to overspend for another running back. They could use a little size at the position, but they can get a short-yardage back pretty much anywhere, without sacrificing players or picks. Obviously, if Washington can't recover as quickly as hoped, that changes the situation dramatically.
Q: Brian, are there any Seahawks players that would interest you in a Lynch trade?
Sure, I'll play along, but not for long, because I've just gone on record as saying this probably isn't going to happen. Realistically, Seattle doesn't have a lot to offer the Bills positionally, but one player I'd look at is Nick Reed. A seventh-round pick a year ago, Reed will compete at end in Seattle, but he's a better fit as a 3-4 OLB. He'd add more competition to a Bills OLB position that only goes six deep and might be without Aaron Schobel. It'd take a pick and Reed, obviously, to flip for Lynch, but if Seattle ends up wanting to get Lynch without giving up a high-round pick, adding in Reed could sweeten the deal.
Q: Brian, would you trade Lynch?
Nope. I realize that puts me in the distinct minority, but I'm not big on trading young, talented players, regardless of the numbers game. Buffalo needs offensive talent. They can find ways to use all three backs. That doesn't mean I'd be irritated to see him go or anything like that, provided that Nix doesn't back down from the demands that have been deemed ambitious by the so-called "experts." Lynch has more value to this team as a running back than as a 2011 mid-round pick. That's just my opinion.
Q: Brian, saw you don't want the Bills to trade Lynch. What the heck do we do with him if he's our No. 3 RB?
Pretty simple: give him the football. Give it to him early, and give it to him often. Marshawn Lynch is still the closest thing to an every-down back on this roster. He's also the least versatile (which makes him sound limited, I realize), meaning that the Bills can more easily find creative ways to use Jackson and Spiller than they can Lynch.
I have no problem with the idea of Lynch being the "main" running back - that is, the running back that is most frequently used in a traditional running back role - with Jackson and Spiller getting touches in more creative, complementary ways. Outside of running back, the Bills don't have a lot of proven options, and you can bet that teams will do everything they can to prevent Lee Evans from being a factor this year. Lynch can play. Let him play, and let him play a lot. That's how I'd handle the situation; forget about carry splits and all of that crap. If these three guys are all productive, how many touches each gets won't really matter.
Q: Brian, do you see Lynch staying in Buffalo past his current contract? (Saw you didn't think he'd be moved.)
That's impossible to say, and depends entirely on what happens in 2010. Lynch wants to play where he's wanted, and whatever Bills fans are saying now, a strong 2010 season will make everyone forget what's happened this off-season. That's all I'll predict for now.
Q: Brian, if Marshawn Lynch were a character from Lost, who would he be?
Yes, I seriously got this email. Seriously. Obviously irrelevant to this article, but too fun to pass up. And yes, this will be the last question I answer. If I were re-casting Lost with only Buffalo Bills players, Marshawn would get the role of Charlie Pace. I would now like to apologize to everyone who does not give a crap about Lost for answering this question here.