In a post-truth society, at a time when ridiculousness like “fake news” and “alternative facts” infiltrates the lexicon, thank goodness for the Seattle Seahawks.
Two of the more iconic players of their recent history, two of the NFL’s bigger personalities and two individuals who until recently would have been thought of as the face of the defense (Richard Sherman) and the face of the offense (Marshawn Lynch) are now very much in the news, and the forthright manner in which the team’s management is handling the unusual situations should be applauded.
In a league where word games, obfuscation, carefully crafted non-denial denials and outright lying is often the norm in regard to even trivial roster transactions, to say nothing of the magnitude of what the Seahawks are dealing with in regards to Lynch and Sherman, kudos to Seattle general manager John Schneider for being honest and candid in how he has presented the situation to the media, and, therefore by extension, to his fans.
You know, the very paying customers who literally invest in his team with their wallets.
It would have been easy to spin some yarns and pretend there was nothing going on with either player, especially given the somewhat complex nature of discussing potential blockbuster trades for your All-Pro corner at the same time you are helping facilitate your former All-Pro running back’s potential return from retirement to join another team.
Instead, with varied media reports about both matters largely correct and on point and with so much swirling around about each player, Schneider opted to take a direct and real approach when asked about them recently by the local ESPN radio affiliate.
Low and behold, he actually added some context to it all. He didn’t lurk in the shadows and take shots at reporters for doing their jobs or try to pretend there was nothing to see here. Because with the Seahawks already operating in a forthright and positive manner behind the scenes with both Lynch and Sherman -- keeping them apprised of their intentions with both, letting them know the machinations going on that might result in both playing elsewhere in 2017 -- there was really no reason to hide.
Lynch, if he plays again, wants to do so only for the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks don’t really want or need him back at this point, and they certainly aren’t prepared to pay him $9 million to play (the amount his current contract stipulates). And, so they won’t stand in his way if he wants to conclude his career with his hometown team and willing to work with him to accomplish that goal. They granted him permission to visit the Raiders and meet with their team officials this week despite him still being under contract to Seattle -- and despite a few years of “will he or won’t he retire?” drama to end his tenure with the Seahawks.
“We just thought it was the right thing to do for Marshawn,” Schneider told me when asked about the somewhat unusual visit. Schneider was also up front during his radio interview early this week about the ease with which he and longtime friend Reggie McKenzkie, the Raiders’ general manager, could conclude a trade for Lynch. Schneider won’t drag it out or try to get an unreasonable return on a fading player at the end of his career (memo to Jerry Jones). He won’t be an impediment of any sort.
What’s going unsaid here, of course, is the fact that with guys like Adrian Peterson and LeGarrette Blount unable to get more than a few million a year on the open market, and the Raiders about to bestow massive contracts to linebacker Khalil Mack and quarterback Derek Carr, they aren’t paying Lynch $9 million to play football in 2017, either. No one is. Those days are gone.
Would Lynch be willing to take $3 million guaranteed and the chance to double it in incentives? How much would the Raiders sweeten the pot? What kind of shape is Lynch in? Does he intend to take place in all offseason work?
That’s for McKenzie to sort out. And that will take a lot more doing than the short phone call between him and Schneider, his old buddy from their time rising through the ranks with the Packers, in which Oakland agrees to send a conditional fifth-round pick or whatever to the Seahawks to obtain Lynch’s contractual services. This isn’t like negotiating some peace treaty so why pretend making an NFL trade is like navigating international diplomacy?
As for Sherman, the team has been proactive behind the scenes as well. Sherman has been without representation for quite some time, serving as his own agent, so rather than have the veteran find out through Twitter or a website or on television that he might be moving on, the Seahawks instead opted to keep him in the loop. Novel concept!
Sherman was aware that he was topic of offseason trade talks and that, while the odds were most likely he remained on the Seahawks in 2017, there was a certain possibility Seattle could strike a swap for him. They weren’t peddling his contract. They weren’t going to just give him away. This wasn’t a salary dump scenario. But, if someone made an offer that constitutes what Seattle would consider a fair football trade, that made sense from a roster and cap standpoint for the Seahawks, Sherman was hardly untouchable.
So, when Schneider was asked about it at his recent charity event -- he and his family are devoted to raising money for autism awareness and research and live that mission each day of their lives -- he figured why not just shoot everyone straight. Yes, they were engaged some trade talks regarding such a prominent player, all parties were already aware of what was going on, and with the draft looming in a few weeks and NFL general managers about to burn up the phone lines in advance of it, perhaps Sherman might not be back.
“It just made sense to be transparent about what was going on,” Schneider told me. “A lot of it was already reported and we had been transparent with Richard all along. I wasn’t trying to make news or anything -- a lot of this was already out there -- so why lie about it? We have a great relationship with Richard and we want to be open and honest with our players.”
Refreshing. Imagine if this sort of thing became contagious?
Now, obviously, Schneider’s sincerity will only extend so far. He wouldn’t say or do anything to compromise another NFL club or put their management in a tough situation by revealing any names from other rosters that may have come up during trade negotiations. He’s not going to go into details there.
And, what’s left unsaid, is that maybe after all these years of putting out fires and dancing around contract demands and dealing with the varied distractions with the media or on the sidelines that Lynch and Sherman have been involved in, well, perhaps there is a little fatigue. Few can juggle alpha males and unique personalities the way Seahawks coach Pete Carroll can … but even he has his limitations.
For as tremendous as Lynch was, he has been through the wars and he played with a ferocious physicality that takes years off your career and he’s already been away from the game for a year. He is a great unknown at this point and the Seahawks organization long ago made their peace that he’d played for them for the last time. Running backs are a disposal commodity in the NFL, sadly -- even recently great ones once age and injury set in -- and this draft is loaded with them and Seattle has reached a price point with its payroll where lavish on a runner doesn’t make sense.
Similarly, few have had better success developing defensive backs this decade than Seattle. They know the long, lean body type that favors Carroll’s scheme and they know which traits to hone in on and it’s at least in part why Sherman went from unknown fifth-round pick to superstar and why they’ve enjoyed robust rewards by finding value in former CFL corner Brandon Browner or in unearthing Byron Maxwell or exploiting the draft to land all-world safety tandem Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.
You can only pay three of your four starting defensive backs top-of-the-market money for so long and the Seahawks could use more balance in the cap and cash spending. They still have a big need along the offensive line and redirecting resources there over the next few years to preserve franchise quarterback Russell Wilson is in order. That money has to come from somewhere.
Sherman just turned 29 and is one of the highest-paid corners in the game and that’s a position where Seattle should be best positioned to turn another mid-round pick into a potential impact starter. In the age of Moneyball, that’s an efficiency they should be able to cash-in on. They might not find another Sherman, but, for a tenth of the money, maybe they get something fairly close over the next year or two.
You can’t accuse Schneider and Carroll of not being bold or ambitious as they’ve transformed the Seahawks into a model franchise with yearly Super Bowl ambitions. To their credit, they’re always open for business and have been aggressive in the largely docile NFL trade market and they’ll keep an open mind even when it comes to cornerstone players. Soon enough, two more might be leaving Seattle. But they already know that, and so do we, and as best I can tell there is no harm in that.
Honesty still might be the best policy.