NFL free agency does not begin until Tuesday. But the Seahawks already have made their best possible move.
And that, of course, would be the announcement late Friday that Marshawn Lynch has signed a two-year contract extension. The move removes the biggest question facing the Seahawks this offseason: If not Lynch, and all that he provides not only the offense but the entire team, then who?
The team had other options if Lynch had opted to retire. There's free agency, where NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray is about to hit the open market. But he needed 392 carries to produce his 1,845 rushing yards – 77 more than Lynch's career-high of 315 in 2012, when he ran for a career-best 1,590 yards; and 22 more than Shaun Alexander had in 2005, when he rushed for a franchise-record 1,880 yards and scored a then-NFL record 28 touchdowns.
There's also the NFL Draft next month, where pundits have linked the Seahawks to Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon because of Lynch's situation. But Gurley is coming off a torn ACL that ended his college career, despite looking "like a young Marshawn Lynch on tape," as Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout.com put it in his most recent mock draft; while Gordon is coming off a 343-carry season for the Badgers. He'll turn 22 next month, but as Indiana Jones put it, "It's not the years, it's the miles." Or, in this case, the 2,587 yards produced by Gordon's cascade of carries.
There's also the next-man-approach that has served the Seahawks so well while going 42-14 the past three seasons, including playoffs. Quarterback Russell Wilson continues to praise Robert Turbin for his starter-like contributions as Lynch's backup and many fans are eager to see what Christine Michael might be able to do with more touches after getting just 52 in his first two seasons.
But are any of these options preferable to getting Lynch back, even if it is for only one more season?
That would be a definite no, because there is not a better back in the game for the way the Seahawks play than Lynch. Even though he will turn 29 next month and has averaged 388.7 touches the past three seasons, including playoffs.
Coach Pete Carroll has been adamant about the fact that Lynch's unique style is imperative to completing the cycle of physicality that he wants the Seahawks to unleash on opponents.
A look back at some of the best images of RB Marshawn Lynch from the 2014 NFC Championship season.
"This game of football has always been about the physical side of it," Carroll has said. "It's always been about the aggressive, tough, take-care-of-the-ball mentality, built off the defense and special teams. But we closed the loop on toughness by being committed to the running game."
And that also has involved the commitment to Lynch that the club just recommitted to.
When it comes to possessing those unique qualities that Carroll covets, that's Lynch off the field, as well.
Lynch doesn't just march to his own drummer, "He kind of beats his own drum," as general manager John Schneider put it at the NFL Scouting Combine. His style might not fit everyone's taste, but Lynch has been a perfect fit for the Seahawks since they acquired him in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills.
In 4¾ seasons, Lynch is fourth in franchise history with 5,930 rushing yards – behind Alexander (9,429), Chris Warren (6,706) and Curt Warner (6,705); third in rushing touchdowns with 54 – behind Alexander (100) and Warner (55); and fourth in rushing attempts with 1,346 – behind Alexander (2,176), Warner (1,649) and Warren (1,559).
Since 2011, his first full season with the Seahawks, Lynch has more rushing yards (5,357), 100-yard rushing performances (24), rushing TDs (48) and total TDs (56) than any back in the league. And, Lynch has been at his best in the biggest games with the top two postseason rushing performances in franchise history and four of the Top 5.
We could go on and on – just as Lynch has. But the actions of the Seahawks in regards to Lynch pretty much said it all. Owner Paul Allen flew in for the meeting with the Beast Mode back, who had been toying with the idea of retiring because of his chronic back issues that make everything he has accomplished even more impressive.
"There was nothing that needed to be fixed, he just needed to reflect and figure out what he wanted to do," Doug Hendrickson, Lynch's agent, told reporters after the extension was announced.
Translation: Lynch's flirtation with retirement was not a negotiating ploy.
"I think what people are failing to realize is how much he feels for the locker room to not be around those guys – Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett," Michael Robinson, Lynch's former lead-blocking fullback turned analyst for the NFL Network, said on NFL Total Access. "To not be around those guys would be upsetting to him. I think the relationship he has with his teammates, the fact that if there is some new money out there that he could use to kind of help some of his efforts he wants to do in the Oakland community and worldwide, I just think that it's a win-win for him."
Not to mention the team.