One of the biggest and most common questions that I keep being asked is: “Why did the Seahawks use their top pick on a RB, when they already have Lynch and Turbin, and when there were bigger needs on the roster?”
The answer to that question is a complex one. Part of it has to do with the talent that was available, but was clearly not the deciding factor here. Christine Michael is an amazing talent, but it is difficult to make a case for him being definitely better some of the other players who were available.
From the interviews given by both Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and from what we know of the team’s contract situation, we know that all three of the below factors contributed to the decision to draft Michael. I just have no idea which of these 3 factors weighed most heavily in this choice.
The Team’s Offensive Identity
Russell Wilson may be the face of the franchise, but Marshawn Lynch is still the identity of the offense. Everything the Seahawks do is based around his ability to run the football.
So what would happen if Lynch was injured and had to miss time? Robert Turbin’s acquisition a year ago gave the team some insurance against this, but not enough. If Turbin was forced to into the starting lineup, there wouldn’t be anyone to pick up his old share of the carries.
The team would also be be just 1 nasty hit away from not having it’s identity anymore. Likely, if either Lynch or Turbin were injured, the Seahawks would be forced to run less to try and avoid a 2nd injuy, and thus would put more pressure on the defense and Wilson in order to win games.
Michael provides the team with a 3rd option, which will remove all concerns about the team’s ability to stick to it’s running identity if there is an injury.
Keeping Marshawn Healthy
Lynch came to Seattle in 2010 with a nagging back issue that has never gone away. He already doesn’t practice on Wednesdays in an effort to manage the condition. In 2011, Lynch missed the Cleveland game unexpectedly when his back flared up on him unexpectedly on game day.
Lynch also wore down in 2012 in a way. While his overall yards and yards per carry remained high, his yards after contact dropped as the year went on.
Having Michael take carries away from Lynch throughout the year will help keep Lynch healthy and ready to unleash his “beast mode” once the playoffs begin.
Future Cost Reduction
The upcoming cap problems for the Seahawks are well documented. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are going to be paid very well, and the money to pay those 3 is going to have to come from other positions.
Lynch is still among the best in the backs in the NFL, but in 2 years he’s likely to be on the decline. At that time, the team will be able to save $7.5 million in cap room if they choose to move on from him to a younger option.
The problem with that idea is that Lynch is such a huge part of this offense. There’s no way the team can make that decision unless the back who’ll replace him is already on the team and has proven he can get the job done.
Getting Michael on the roster now gives the team a chance to evaluate him and make the final call on whether or not he can truly be the heir to Seahawk’s running game.