By TIM BOOTH, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Seahawks fans might want to consider stocking up on Skittles. Marshawn Lynch is staying put.
The Seahawks' bulldozing, candy-loving running back signed a four-year contract Sunday night that will keep him in a Seattle uniform for the prime of his NFL career and coming off his finest season.
Seattle announced the move less than 24 hours before the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag and Lynch would have been owed more than $7 million for one season if Seattle used the tag on him. A person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press that Lynch's contract is worth $31 million, including $18 million guaranteed. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because terms of the deal were not officially announced.
"We are excited to keep Marshawn as part of what we are building," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "This is what we were hoping for when we acquired him from Buffalo."
Lynch rushed for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and embodied the attitude head coach Pete Carroll wanted the rest of his roster to emulate. Lynch also showed a maturity this season that might have been absent in the past.
That maturity was evident midseason when Seattle was struggling at midseason and Lynch had rushed for more than 80 yards just once. He sat down with assistant head coach Tom Cable to ask what he could do as a back to become more productive.
The result was six 100-yard games over the final nine weeks. In the three games during which Lynch failed to top 100 yards, he rushed for more than 80 twice and had two touchdowns rushing the other time as the Seahawks won five of their final eight games and made a late surge for playoff spot. Lynch was the first running back this season to score a touchdown rushing against San Francisco in Week 16. In the season finale against Arizona, Lynch was held out of the end zone to snap a franchise-record streak of 11 consecutive games with a TD.
By the end of the season, Lynch's touchdowns at home were being marked with a shower of Skittles — Lynch's favorite candy — raining down from the stands.
Lynch came to Seattle during the 2010 season in a trade with Buffalo and after his career with the Bills stalled. Lynch ran into problems off the field in Buffalo, but reunited with former California teammate Justin Forsett and has stayed clear of trouble with the Seahawks.
In the process, Lynch has become the rugged face of a franchise that was predicated on finesse and precision for most of the previous decade. His tremor-inducing touchdown run in the 2010 playoffs against New Orleans remains one of the more famous moments in Seahawks history.
At the end of the year, Lynch acknowledged he grew up and became a pro in 2011.
"The direction that the team is going in, you can continue to see week in guys continuing to get better, following the motto of the program, just competing," Lynch said at the end of the season. "You continue to see that."
With Lynch locked up, the Seahawks' next big free agent would appear to be defensive end Red Bryant. Playing in a position created almost especially for him, Bryant thrived after shifting from defensive tackle to defensive end and said after the season he couldn't imagine himself playing anywhere other than Seattle. But the sides have yet to reach an agreement with free agency beginning in less than two weeks.
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