There was precedent when Marshawn Lynch retired from the NFL after the 2015 season, but the timing was jarring. Beast Mode was only 30, ergo a steady drip-feed of talk that a comeback was inevitable.
But Robert Smith left the game at 29 after leading the NFL in rushing the previous season. Barry Sanders walked away at 30 in the midst of arguably the greatest career a running back has ever known. There are plenty of examples of a running back leaving relatively near his peak and staying away. And it's a growing trend across the league. More and more players are opting to cut their careers short, with wide receiver Calvin Johnson and linebacker Chris Borland the most recent examples of note.
So if you, like me, presumed that the talk of Lynch coming out of retirement to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders was little more than the NFL rumor mill working a pinch too hard to churn its blades, well, it may be time to adjust our perspective.
On Wednesday, Lynch met officially with the Raiders after the Seahawks—his former team, who still owns his contract rights—greenlit the move. Apparently, it went well:
Like, really, really well:
As Rapaport notes, this involves a bit more paperwork than a standard free agent signing due to Lynch still being under contract with Seattle. If the Seahawks demand compensation, then there's potential for a drawn-out standoff a la the one Dallas just ended with Tony Romo. And, if it does get ugly, would Lynch play for anyone besides the Raiders, who are based a short drive from his home in Oakland?
That's several steps away, though. For now, there's serious smoke that Marshawn Lynch could be enhancing both the ambience and the décor of an NFL backfield again in very short order.