Marshawn Lynch proved to be one of the most indefatigable athletes in the NFL with his bruising style of play while cementing the aura of "Beast Mode." However, Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers was a harrowing reminder that even the most powerful of athletes can break down at a moment's notice.
Under general manager John Schneider's reign, the Seattle Seahawks proved to be as unsentimental a club that exists, which presents the question: Was this Lynch's last game with the Seahawks?
Lynch returned to action Sunday after missing the Seahawks' past eight games due to an abdomen injury, and was largely ineffective, rushing for 20 yards on six carries. Admittedly, Lynch's usage rate was significantly lower than expected with the Seahawks slipping into a 31-point deficit in the first half. Whether it was due to rust, fatigue, or an overall decline in skill, Lynch was nowhere close to resembling the player that shattered records for broken tackles.
The Seahawks' running back is under contract through 2017, and is owed $9 million in base salary with a $2.5-million signing bonus for next season. Seattle will only incur a $5-million cap hit if it decides to release him, and the five-time Pro Bowler will likely have his pick of suitors based on past reputation.
When he's in top form, Lynch is one of the premier running backs in the game, but his injury afforded the Seahawks time to develop a contingency plan.
Thomas Rawls proved to be the Seahawks' running back of the future, rushing for 830 yards and four touchdowns before fracturing his ankle on December 13. Rawls will make less than $615,000 for the next two seasons, and the Seahawks found a cost-effective option for their running game, in spite of Lynch's eminence.
Lynch will be 30 by the start of the 2016 campaign, a marker that usually signifies significant decline for running backs. With his bruising style of play clearly taking a toll on his body, Lynch will likely not be able to produce with the same output fans have been accustomed to over the past half-decade.
It's an unfortunate reality of the game, but many of the best players in the NFL face a sharp denouement before fans can process it. Sadly, for Marshawn Lynch, that appears to be the case.