Drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, Christine Michael is undoubtedly talented. But he’s permanently slotted behind Marshawn Lynch on the depth-chart, meaning he is no more than a fantasy “handcuff” for the foreseeable future. However, the “foreseeable future” may be coming to an end.
Though Lynch has significant tread on his tires–he’s carried the ball over 200 times in six of his seven seasons, and over 280 times in four of those years–he’ll be Seattle’s lead backfield dog in 2014. As for Lynch’s 2015 status, well that’s much less certain.
When dissecting Lynch’s Seahawks future you must not only account for the wear and tear he totes, but also for the cap number he carries. The structure of his contract means his $9 million 2015 cap hit has just $1.5 million in dead money associated with it. It also means Seattle would save $7.5 million against the cap by cutting Lynch after this coming season.
If Lynch were entering his prime, he still might not be worth a $9 million cap hit. The league’s collective action is pointing towards a devaluation of the running back position—only two running backs (Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy) will have 2014 cap hits of at least $9 million. Lynch—who will enter the 2015 season at age 29—of course won’t be in his prime. So even if his 2014 production compares favorably to his excellent 2013 (unlikely, given his age), a $9 million cap hit for a guy who will be pushing 2000 career carries is simply unrealistic.
Of course it’s possible that Lynch agrees to take less money to stay in Seattle. However, based on the current landscape of Seattle’s roster, he’d probably have to take a substantial pay cut—a practice football players aren’t keen on.
The contract’s of both Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman expire after 2014. As Seattle’s two most important defensive pieces, I’d be shocked if GM John Schneider let either one go. The deals of both Russell Okung and Russell Wilson’s—Seattle’s two most important pieces on offense—expire after the 2015 season. Schneider will likely attempt to lock Okung and Wilson up early—offering them protection against the risk of injury for a (small) discount on a long-term deal.
But even if Schneider signed all four guys to team-friendly deals, locking them all up will be costly. Very costly, actually, as I (conservatively) estimate he’ll have to shell out greater than $100 million in guaranteed money to hold on to all four guys. With Percy Harvin and Michael Bennett already accounting for $20.9 million in 2015 cap space, sacrifices must be made somewhere.
An aging Lynch will likely be one of those sacrifices, meaning Michael will be the beneficiary. And with Seattle’s fantasy-friendly backfield, Dynasty players must think ahead. Michael could be a top 5 back in 2015.