With free agency well underway, the Oakland Raiders figure to be in the market for a veteran running back with physicality to complement a pair of smaller backs, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, in the backfield.
The team could’ve simply re-signed former two-year starter Latavius Murray to resume that role, but the 2015 Pro Bowler gauged his value and eventually inked a three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
Luckily for the Raiders, the free agent market is flush with talented running backs, with the likes of LeGarrette Blount, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson still available at a presumably discounted price.
Peterson, in particular, has expressed interest in signing with the Raiders, citing the offensive line as an appealing aspect of joining the team. However, it remains to be seen if the interest is mutual between both parties.
Another name to potentially enter the fold is five-time Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch, who is reportedly mulling a comeback to play for his hometown team next season.
Lynch, 31-years-old in April, has rushed for 74 touchdowns and 9,112 yards since entering the league in 2007, with an additional nine touchdowns and 1,979 yards coming through the air.
The Oakland, Calif. native last saw action during an injury-ridden 2015-16 season with the Seattle Seahawks, in which he posted career-lows in games played (7) and yards from scrimmage (497), while registering a total of three touchdowns.
Whether Lynch is serious about coming out of retirement will be determined sooner rather than later, but there are still a few hurdles that need to be cleared for the possibility of joining the Raiders to become a reality.
To acquire Lynch, the Raiders have two options: The team could swing a trade with the Seahawks, who still hold his rights for two more seasons, or simply wait until Lynch is granted his inevitable release.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and Seahawks general manager John Schneider worked closely together in the Green Bay Packers front office from 2002-07, so the familiarity should make it easier for both sides to hammer out a deal.
If a trade is in fact made, the compensation going back to Seattle should be nothing more than a late conditional draft pick, given that Lynch would only unretire to play for the Raiders and has no other suiters.
The Seahawks, of course, could simply release Lynch as a favor to the player and Raiders, and that could very well be the only route they can realistically take.
If and when Lynch is reinstated, Seattle would not be able to afford his $9 million cap hit, given that the team just signed Eddie Lacy and has roughly $4 million remaining in cap space.
Knowing this, the Raiders likely won’t even attempt to trade for Lynch and will bank on signing him when he’s released.
For the Raiders, adding a rested Lynch to an already formidable offense would arguably rival the New England Patriots’ offense as best in the league.
While Lynch hasn’t played in over a year, he’s still in game shape and had the opportunity to recover from any injuries that hindered him during the 2015-16 season — adding an intriguing element to signing him over the other free agent running backs that are still available.
With the presence of Richard and Washington, Lynch wouldn’t need to be a workhorse for the Raiders, allowing him to stay fresh over the course of the long season and ensuring that he’ll be at the top of his game every week.
Considering that Lynch is only willing to come out of retirement to play in Oakland, the Raiders can assumedly sign him for a discount and still have more than enough money to extend quarterback Derek Carr later in the offseason.
Additionally, Lynch playing on a short-term commitment would also enable the Raiders to select a running back in this year’s stacked draft, if they choose, since Lynch likely doesn’t envision himself playing for more than a year or two.
It isn’t clear yet how this situation will play out, but one thing is for sure: the Raiders and Lynch are a perfect match for each other.