The Oakland Raiders came into the offseason knowing they would probably need to add a running back. Latavius Murray was a free agent, and they didn’t have a viable replacement on the roster.
Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles hit the open market, but the Raiders opted to go after a guy who hasn’t played football in a year: Marshawn Lynch.
On Friday, Lynch reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with Oakland, setting the wheels in motion for him to officially return to the NFL. The Seahawks still need to relinquish his rights via a trade with the Raiders, but that seems to be a formality at this point.
This is all well and good, and it’s swell for the city of Oakland, but it doesn’t solve the Raiders’ problems at running back. In fact, this is more of a glamour move for a team that’s leaving for Las Vegas in a few years – a last hoorah, of sorts.
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Trust me, few people are more excited to see Lynch on the field than I am. He’s one of the most exciting and unpredictable characters to step foot on an NFL field, and seeing him in black and silver will be fantastic. But at the same time, the Raiders have to realize that he isn’t a long-term answer and may not be an answer at all.
We don’t know how much he has left in the tank after an offseason of eating Skittles (kidding) and traveling the world. Even when he was last on the field, he was ineffective and certainly not a three-down back.
He averaged only 3.8 yards per carry in 2015 and didn’t have the same explosiveness we were accustomed to seeing. Was that the result of several injuries? Sure, but it also had to do with him not being as effective as a running back.
Not to mention, he’s far more successful when the quarterback is under center. That’s not to say he can’t run out of the shotgun, but the majority of his carries in the NFL have come from Single-back and “I” formations. The Raiders are a shotgun-heavy team, which makes Lynch a not-so-great fit in their offense.
I have little doubt he’ll get in shape before the start of the season and will put everything into this triumphant return for his hometown team, it’s just a bad idea for the Raiders — a team with Super Bowl aspirations — to bank on him being the starter for all 16 games.
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And maybe they don’t expect that. Maybe they’re thinking the same thing I am – that signing Lynch is just a way to excite fans in Oakland. After all, the fan base is unquestionably disappointed that the franchise is leaving yet again.
The Raiders still have to draft a running back fairly early. Not necessarily in the first round, but they should at least consider it in the second and third. This is a historically deep class at that position, so capitalizing on it would be wise. The Bears found the league’s second-leading rusher in the fifth round in Jordan Howard, so there’s no reason to think the Raiders can’t do the same this year – especially with an elite offensive line.
Lynch is charismatic, funny, and a character off the field, but he’s not going to take Oakland from Super Bowl contention to Super Bowl appearance. He’s not a 20-carry guy, and there’s no guarantee he’ll even make the 53-man roster. We’ll have to see what the terms of his contract are, but you can bet they are incentive-heavy with very little guaranteed money.
Until then, let’s get excited about Beast Mode being back in the NFL while remembering to temper our expectations.