How Much Is Marshawn Lynch Worth?


Re-signing Marshawn Lynch is definitely a priority for the Seahawks this off-season. Lynch was the centerpiece of the offense, and a vital cog of this entire team. Losing him to free agency would definitely set this team back. The Seahawks need to re-sign him. He knows it. Everyone knows it. Lynch is going to get paid.

But how much is too much? Lynch is a powerful back, but his lack of speed means he isn’t the explosive playmaker that Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are. He’s also not the threat in the passing game the way Steven Jackson is. Though he isn’t those things, he is perhaps the best at what he does. He is called “beast mode” for a reason.

But as the title of this article asks, how much is he worth? Below is a table that shows the “cap value” of the highest paid running backs in the NFL in 2011.

I used the cap value since it includes both the salary and a portion of the signing bonus.


Adrian Peterson$10,720,000


Steven Jackson$7,200,000


Darren McFadden$7,055,000


Michael Turner$5,000,000


Maurice Jones-Drew$4,050,000


Jamaal Charles$3,350,000


Ovie Mughelli$3,000,000Cedric Benson$3,000,000Chris Johnson*$3,000,000


Brandon Jacobs$2,900,000

Frank Gore



Michael Bush$2,610,000


Ryan Grant

$2,500,000Reggie Bush$2,500,000


Marion Barber$2,250,000


Earnest Graham$2,000,000

Leon Washington



Thomas Jones$1,900,000


BenJarvus Green-Ellis$1,835,000


Fred Jackson$1,750,000Brandon Jackson$1,750,000


Maurice Morris$1,625,000


Moran Norris$1,500,000LeRon McClain$1,500,000Ahmad Bradshaw$1,500,000


Lousaka Polite$1,350,000


Jonathan Stewart$1,310,000


Tim Hightower$1,200,000


Marshawn Lynch$1,140,000

Clearly Lynch is due for a big raise. But how much? Lynch finished 2011 statistically as the 7th best back in the league, but I have to believe that he’s going be getting more than $3 mil/year in this contract. My instincts tell me that he’s likely to get about $4.5 mil/year, which would have the 5th highest paid back in 2011. That seems about right, both in terms of compensation and in terms of placing Lynch amongst the best backs in the league, but not quite up to the likes of Peterson and Jackson.

With that in mind, it comes down to years and how much of that cap number is tied up in his signing bonus. My gut says that $8-10 million in bonus money is about right. 4 or 5 years is likely just to spread out the cap number, though I bet the final year will have a massive base salary just to put the contract totals dollars up amongst the largest contracts for backs, even though Lynch will never see that money.

I put together 5 year, $30.6 mil deal that I think would make everyone happy:


As you can see, this is really just a 4 year deal worth $20.6 mil. There’s no way Lynch plays out that final year. It would be renegotiated before that, or he’d be released. It would all depend on his production the year before. This deal is actually on the large side. 3 years with the 4th being the “cap” year is probably better for the Seahawks, and I tried to guess on the high side for both bonus money and salary just to be safe.

One thing I’d like to mention is that Lynch isn’t Shaun Alexander. I know that there a more than just a few fans that are nervous about giving Lynch a big payday, only to have him quickly decline into a shell of what he currently is. I just don’t believe that this will happen with Lynch.

Lynch is just 25. When Alexander signed his big contract, he was 29. Lynch has also had a lot fewer carriers per year than Alexander did. Clearly, Lynch should have a couple more seasons left before he starts his inevitable decline.

*Note: Chris Johnson’s mega-contract is only partly kicked in at this point. It was an extension, so the new base salaries don’t begin until the new years on the deal, starting in 2012.