After weeks of delay that invited speculation of a desire by Marshawn Lynch to be released, the Seahawks have placed Lynch on the reserve-retired list. It doesn’t mean Lynch is prohibited from changing his mind.
As the football-following world learned in 2008 with Brett Favre’s First Annual Unretirement, a player who wants to return needs simply to file a request for reinstatement with the league office. Once reinstated, he’s back on his prior team’s roster, at the $9 million salary he was due to earn.
The Seahawks, who drafted at last count 17 running backs last week (actually, three), would then have to decide whether to keep him, trade him, or cut him. If he’s cut, Lynch becomes a free agent, able to sign with any team.
But there’s a caveat. If Lynch decides to wait until the regular season unfolds in order to ensure that he’ll land with a contender, unretiring after the trade deadline would result in Lynch being exposed to waivers, if/when he’s released.
This means that, if the Seahawks cut Lynch so that Lynch can, for example, join his hometown team (the Raiders), another team would be able to block that maneuver by claiming Lynch’s contract.
That’s exactly what happened in 2002, when Deion Sanders wanted to unretire and climb aboard the Oakland bandwagon for a Super Bowl run. After Washington released his rights, the Chargers claimed the contract on waivers.
The Chargers made the move because Sanders had retired in 2001 due to a lack of desire to play for Marty Schottenheimer, who had been hired earlier that year. Fired after one season, Schottenheimer was the head coach in San Diego in 2002.
With Lynch, another team likely would be inclined to block him from hand picking his next team not for spite but for strategic reasons. Regardless, Lynch will eliminate that risk if he returns long enough before the trade deadline to ensure that he’d be cut without having to pass through waivers.
Even if he’s not truly ready at that point to join a team, Lynch would be smart to ensure that he has the pieces in place before the trade deadline to make a late-season debut with a team that is on track for the Super Bowl and in need of a difference-maker at tailback.
Unless he’s truly done playing. With Lynch, however, no one ever really knows what he’s going to do. Which makes it even more sensible to keep an eye on all possible outcomes.