So far this offseason, there’s been a lot of speculation regarding whether long-time fan favorite Marshawn Lynch would return for a 13th NFL season in 2020. And if he does, will it be for a full season or only a partial season as he did for the Seahawks in December?
After taking a 14-month absence from the NFL, Lynch returned to Seattle in Week 17 and played in three games, including their two playoff matchups against Philadelphia and Green Bay in January.
During those four games, “Beast Mode” rushed 30 times for just 67 yards, but he produced four touchdowns replacing injured backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. In addition, the five-time Pro Bowler also caught two of his three targets for 25 yards, including a 20-yard reception coming against the Eagles in the wild card round.
Following the Seahawks 28-23 loss against the Packers in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, Lynch didn’t exactly close the door about potentially returning at some point next season and also offered up some blunt advice for younger teammates.
“We’ll see what happens,” Lynch told reporters during his brief press conference after the game at Lambeau Field.
Just as things started to calm down, former Seahawks teammate Michael Robinson ignited further speculation about Lynch potentially playing next season.
During an interview with Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest, the ex-Pro Bowl fullback expressed his belief that if Lynch does play next season, the Seahawks would be the only team that he’d want to suit up for.
“My humble opinion, I think he wants to play, and I don’t think he’ll want to play for any other team than the Seattle Seahawks,” Robinson remarked.
Robinson, a former quarterback at Penn State, also recalled the conversation that he had with Lynch when he first decided to return to the NFL last December.
“I need to prove not just to myself, but to the rest of the football world that this game needs me and I belong,” Robinson said.
After Lynch was acquired by Seattle during the 2010 season, the 5-foot-11 running back started to form a close relationship with Robinson. Over the next three seasons, their bond became even stronger and they're still very close friends to this day.
Based on their relationship, if there's a person who actually knows what Lynch plans to do, Robinson is one of the few people who can confidently speak about his playing future.
And if he's wanting to play in Seattle again, coach Pete Carroll didn't necessarily shoot down the possibility Lynch could come back to the Seahawks, indicating the team was open to him returning and will "look at everything."
During his end of the season press conference, Carroll expressed how happy he was to watch No. 24 make his return to the Pacific Northwest and how exciting it was to watch him find the end zone on multiple occasions after being away from the team for nearly four seasons.
“We were all very fortunate to have a chance to see Marshawn come back and play again,” Carroll explained. “To score four touchdowns in the last three weeks it was pretty cool. Just being Marshawn down inside the 5-yard line, he was nails.”
Since Seattle is slated to have Carson, Penny and Travis Homer in the backfield next season, the team doesn't exactly have a clear need to bring Lynch back next season. Set to turn 34 in April, he averaged just 1.2 yards after contact albeit in a small sample size, which tied for 187th-best among all running backs, receivers and quarterbacks last season, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
However, Lynch is just 325 rushing yards away from passing Seahawks legend Curt Warner (6,705) for the third-most rushing yards in franchise history. Bringing him back in a reserve role, especially with Carson and Penny recovering from significant injuries, could present the opportunity for him to surpass Warner and continue to play a mentor role for young players such as Homer.
There's also always the possibility Lynch could play fullback for Seattle, an intriguing, yet not far-fetched idea floated by ESPN 710 analyst Jake Heaps.
As is always the case with Lynch, even the player may not know what his next move will be. Based on his advancing age, there's a good chance fans have seen "Beast Mode" in a Seahawks uniform for the last time.
Still, Carroll and Seattle at least seem open to the idea of re-signing him and ultimately, it'll be his decision if he wants to play again, creating a story line worth monitoring for the next several months and potentially into the regular season.