ALAMEDA, Calif. — As Marshawn Lynch departed the Oakland Raiders‘ locker room for the final time this season, he was draped in Beast Mode gear with massive headphones covering his ears and what appeared to be a celebratory Swisher Sweet-type stogie dangling, unlit, from his mouth.
And why not?
Lynch carried with him the accomplishment of becoming the 31st member of the NFL’s 10,000-yard rushing club, having gone over that milestone number in the Raiders’ season-finale loss at the Los Angeles Chargers.
“It’s a business,” Lynch told me after I asked him about Jack Del Rio being fired as Raiders coach minutes earlier.
Would Lynch have the same thought if new Raiders coach Jon Gruden deemed Lynch expendable and told Lynch, who has a year remaining on his contract, that his services were no longer needed in Oakland?
Of course, this is contingent upon Lynch returning and not retiring for the second time since 2016.
Lynch had a cryptic answer to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders’ tweet congratulating him for the 10K achievement.
from the best that I seen wit my own eyes strap it on and I wanted to leave the game just like you big dog good lookin…. Yes Lawd!!!!
— Shawn Lynch (@MoneyLynch) January 1, 2018
Then he retweeted Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, who wants Lynch to return.
Huge congrats to Oakland’s own (future Hall of Famer?) @MoneyLynch on 10,000 career rushing yards!
Selfishly hoping we get another year of #BeastMode.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) January 1, 2018
Lynch, who has a $1 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year, is scheduled to have a base salary of $4 million for the 2018 season. But if the Raiders cut him, there is no dead money involved, and Oakland would save $6 million against the salary cap.
It is similar to the Michael Crabtree dilemma, of sorts, as the Raiders are currently expected to have about $18 million in salary-cap space, and cutting the receiver would save the Raiders $7.75 million in cap space.
Keep in mind, Lynch was the Raiders’ best offensive player the second half of the season, and it’s not like they have a lead running back ready to plug in should Lynch either hang his cleats over the power line again or get cut.
Before his one-game suspension for making contact with a referee in Week 7, Lynch averaged 3.7 yards per carry in rushing for 266 yards on 72 carries and had two touchdowns in seven games.
After returning, a refocused Lynch averaged 4.6 yards per carry in rushing for 625 yards on 135 carries and scored five TDs in eight games.
On the season, Lynch’s 50 missed tackles forced were the sixth most of any running back in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Even as he turns 32 in April, it would appear as though Lynch not only had something left in the tank but also got better as the season wore on.
While there might be room for Lynch’s production on Gruden’s Raiders — and if Lynch is as big a Raiders fan as he professes, he surely had to be a Chucky fan as a teenager during Gruden’s first run, no? — is there room for Beast Mode’s personality?
Because as much as Lynch dominated the Raiders’ locker room last season and could have been seen as a distraction — remember his running on the field to help an opponent in Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters during a fight or his practicing with his Oakland Tech high school team during his suspension or his reality web series? — he was always available, save for his suspension.
He was at every OTA practice, every minicamp practice, every training camp practice, every regular-season practice until Del Rio started sitting veterans late in the season for a day.
Is there room enough for Chucky and Beast Mode?
It’s a business, right?