Jon Gruden looks forward to joining forces with Marshawn Lynch

Jon Gruden gave a hint as to his plans for Marshawn Lynch next season, but the returning Oakland Raiders coach would not fully commit to Lynch coming back to the team.

Not with the CBA prohibiting most contact between coaches and players at this point -- Gruden, who is returning to the sideline for the first time since 2008, can start working with players on April 9 -- and with Gruden and his staff still wading through the roster and the front office analyzing the salary-cap situation.

"He's still a beast that's hard to bring down," Gruden said of Lynch at the NFL combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday. "And one of the reasons I'm excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. But we'll see what happens. Obviously, we have to take a look at the entire roster. But I'm counting on him. I'm counting on him being a big part of our football team."

After taking a while to get going following a year off in retirement, Lynch was the Raiders' best offensive player in the second half of last season. He rushed for 625 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns in Oakland's final eight games. He rushed for 266 yards, averaged 3.7 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns in the first seven games before serving a one-game suspension for making contact with an official.

Lynch turns 32 on April 22, and cutting him would save the Raiders more than $5.9 million against the cap. Oakland currently has about $19.5 million in cap room, per ESPN Stats & Information.

And if Lynch does return, Gruden would also like to see a healthy Jamize Olawale, who missed four games last season, at fullback to complement Lynch.

"I like Jamize," Gruden said. "I mean, he didn't play much last year. He had some injuries. I think that hurt the offense as well. He gives the offense some deception because he can run. He's a fullback with speed.

"I would like to have a fullback. They're a dying breed in football, but I think it does give your running game a lot of deception. And if Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it would be nice if we serviced him with a fullback."

Gruden also talked about how Michael Robinson served in that role for Lynch in Seattle.

"And you need a blocking tight end if you're going to slam the ball with a beast," added Gruden, who could re-sign Lee Smith, who is a free agent this offseason.

"So those are two things that I'm looking for."

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Gruden counting on Lynch this season
Gruden counting on Lynch this season
Raiders coach Jon Gruden says he's counting on Marshawn Lynch to be a big part of Oakland's offense in 2018 but qualified his comments with a "we'll see."
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