Both the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks had decisions to make before the deadline to lock up their most important players, and both teams were juggling running backs and defensive ends. To offset those issues, both teams have given their franchise backs long-term deals.
On Sunday night, it was announced that the Seahawks agreed to terms with Marshawn Lynch on a four-year, $32 million deal with $17 million (as much as $18 million with incentives) guaranteed. Lynch, a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2007, washed out with his first NFL team and was traded to Seattle during the 2010 NFL draft. In the 2010 wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints, Lynch's long touchdown run, in which he broke several tackles on the way, caused Seahawks fans to set off a "small seismic event," making Lynch the first player we know of to actually cause an earthquake.
In 2011, Lynch became the first Seattle running back since 2006 to gain over 1,000 yards in a season -- he ran 285 times for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. Moreover, and as a contrast to his troubled time in Buffalo, Lynch became a presence in the locker room and the personification of the way the Seahawks wanted to play.
"It was a new group. Odd, odd offseason," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said at the scouting combine of Lynch's growth in the offense through the 2011 season. "With him, it was just more of a timing thing with his reads and anticipation. Once he started trusting it, once the guys up front started coming together, he kind of took off. Then we had those injuries to [right guard John] Moffitt and [right tackle James] Carpenter, and still, we had some guys step in who played real well. Once those guys became a little more of a cohesive group, he just continued to perform at a high level. He did a great job at the end of the season, there's no question."
The deal with Lynch means that the Seahawks can place the franchise tag on defensive end Red Bryant, a key cog in the team's defense, if need be.
As for Foster, the undrafted free agent can now keep the Texans logo he shaved into his head through the 2011 playoffs, the first postseason entry in franchise history. Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network was among the first to report that the five-year deal received by Foster is good for $43.5 million, with $20.75 million guaranteed, $30 million over the first three years, and $18 million in 2012. The Texans can now franchise defensive end Mario Williams if they so choose, should they want to spend the $22 million it would take to do that.
Foster led the league in rushing and rushing touchdowns in 2010 with 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns. In his follow-up season, he gained 1,224 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns in just 13 games. Foster was sidelined early in the season by a hamstring injury that caused a rare display of "anti-awesomeness."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak spoke of Foster's value at the combine:
"[For] Arian to go from a [undrafted] free agent to what he's done, led the league two years ago, last year he missed a month of football and what -- was he second or third [in rushing?] Arian's been exceptional for our football team and yet he's been unselfish, too.
"Without talking numbers and contract, Arian held up his end of the bargain as a player. There's a lot to be said for that, the way he stepped in and did his job."
Now, the Texans have met their end of that deal. The question is, what this does for Mario Williams' future?