As Jon Gruden looks to retool the Raiders roster, the highest profile decision is what to do with Marshawn Lynch.
The 31-year-old running back is set to make just under $6 million next season, but the Raiders can cut ties with Lynch at no cost, as nothing in 2018 is guaranteed to Lynch.
Lynch is the most divisive player among the Raider fan base. One portion loves Lynch’s carefree attitude; the rest view him as a locker room problem that cares more about his reality show than football.
But nothing in the fanbase really matters to Gruden, as he has to decide if $6 million on an aging running back is a cost effective move. The way Gruden has been speaking about Lynch indicates he wants Lynch back in silver and black.
Right now, he’s our leading ballcarrier,” Gruden told the Mercury News earlier this month. “He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”
If the Raiders are counting on Lynch, then they are expecting him to be the starting running back in 2018.
As the lead back in 2017, Lynch got off to a slow start, but he eventually racked up 891 yards and seven touchdowns on a 4.3 yards per carry average. Last season only five players in the NFL totaled more yards with a higher yards per carry than Lynch.
He was good, even after taking a year-long break from the sport. And he could be even better in 2018 behind one of the league's better offensive lines.
In a story for Sports Illustrated Jon Gruden told a few Raider fans that he needs “full-time Lynch” not part-time Lynch.
“We need the real deal,” Gruden said. “If you’re going to put those letters on the back of your jersey, man, you’ve got to back it up, Marshawn—right? We don’t need another back, we need a feature back.”
Gruden sounds all in on Lynch as his number one running back. He wants Beast Mode back in Oakland. Which means the decision falls to Lynch.
There are no offseason quotes from Lynch to dissect. He shies away from the football media. But based on his abrupt retirement from the Seahawks after the 2015 season, Lynch could decide to walk away from the NFL again.
The 2017 NFL season didn’t treat Lynch as well as he would have liked. He was ejected then suspended one additional game for running onto the field during a scuffle with the Chiefs. He was then fined $24,309 for yelling at an official near the end of the Raiders loss to the Cowboys.
As much as Gruden wants full-time Marshawn Lynch to be his feature back, it appears to be up to Lynch if he wants to come back to the Raiders.
Tyler Bischoff hosts Coaches Corner on AM 720 KDWN Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm.