Seahawks Week in Review: Big Money on Defense

Seahawks Week in Review: Big Money on Defense

Who says there's an offseason? The Seahawks have been as busy at the negotiating table as they were on the field in 2007, signing two of their defensive leaders to long-term contracts. Other, smaller deals will increase the team's depth and allow Tim Ruskell to look forward to the draft with a Best Player Available frame of mind.

--The Seattle Seahawks were able to work their way out of one of their most difficult negotiations this offseason, agreeing to a six-year, $50.2 million contract with cornerback Marcus Trufant. Not only does the agreement keep Trufant under contract for the foreseeable future - and on the heels of Lofa Tatupu re-signing locking up two defensive stalwarts at the same time - but it also puts the Seahawks in much better room regarding the salary cap.

Because Trufant was their franchise player, he was eating up $9.465 million in salary-cap space, which put the Seahawks very close to the $116 million cap. But under Trufant's new deal, the Seahawks will save about $6.75 million.

These negotiations had been arduous, in part because general manager Tim Ruskell said he did not believe that Trufant was the type of lockdown corner that should command the type of top-line money that elite level corners were getting.

However, after Asante Samuel reaffirmed the cornerback value set by Nate Clements last year, and after DeAngelo Hall got a new deal from the Oakland Raiders after he was traded there by Atlanta, it became apparent that a new salary paradigm had been set at the position.

Consider, for instance, that three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu just signed a six-year, $42 million extension and is the acknowledged leader of the defense, while Trufant got more money by virtue of his position.

One of the arguments the Seahawks used, and that Trufant ultimately accepted, was that no state income tax in Washington actually gives Trufant a deal almost equal to Samuel, Clements and Hall. California has a 9.8 state income tax.

One of the reasons the Seahawks were so successful last year was because Trufant, in tandem with safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell, avoided giving up the big play, as Seattle secondaries in years past had done.

Trufant had a career-high seven interceptions while often being responsible for covering the opponent's best receiver.

"It kind of just seems like everything is working out like a storybook in my life," Trufant said. "I played ball here (in Tacoma). I grew up here (in Washington). I got to play college ball here (at Washington State), NFL ball here. I'm getting married in Seattle. Things just all come together and it's kind of like a dream come true."

PLAYER NOTES
The Seahawks secured the middle of their defense for the foreseeable future, coming to a long-term agreement with Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Tatupu signed a six-year, $42 million extension with the team that will keep in Seattle through the 2015, essentially signing with Seattle "for life," he said.

Tatupu, named to the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons and earning an All-Pro nod this past year, was not out of his contract for two more years. But the Seahawks did not want to allow him to get to the open market, and Tatupu was fine with re-signing with the team that took him in the second round out of Southern California.

"I love it up here," said Tatupu. "I couldn't picture myself in any other uniform, and now I don't have to."

--MLB Lofa Tatupu said he is close to getting married to his long-time girlfriend, Rachel Marcott, who he met his sophomore year in college at the University of Maine. "You have to have long-term security before you can take that next step," Tatupu said.

Tatupu has lived in two houses in three years in Seattle, and may get another. He bought his first house his rookie year, then moved to be closer to the team's practice facility. With the team moving to a new facility this summer, he may have to move again.

--CB Marcus Trufant already is committed to getting married. He was scheduled to do that three days after signing his long-term contract. "Wedding plans are going well," Trufant said. "I've learned there's a lot of planning that goes into that; more than I would've cared to participate in but that's how it works. That's kind of just how it works. I had to make due and fight through it."

--The Seahawks replaced kicker Josh Brown, who signed with the St. Louis Rams, with former Saints kicker Olindo Mare. Mare agreed to terms on a two-year, $3.5 million deal, the same amount Seattle opted out of paying receiver D.J. Hackett, who signed with the Caroloina Panthers. Brown left Seattle because the Seahawks wanted to slot his signing bonus and the Rams were willing to pay up front.

--Gary Wright, who was the team's vice president of communications for 32 years before retiring, was just re-hired by Paul Allen to head up Seattle's new MLS team, which will start play in a couple years.

QUOTE: "It was like the free tickets when you get bumped off a plane, 'That's enough. No more volunteers.'" -- Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell about going to teammates Deon Grant, Patrick Kerney, Craig Terrill and Jordan Babineaux to restructure their contracts so the team could sign Lofa Tatupu.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

It is almost a foregone conclusion that former NFL MVP running back Shaun Alexander will be released, but the team must wait until his surgically repaired left wrist is completely healed and out of a cast.
The only question that remains is whether they will release him now, and have all his $6.9 million remaining signing bonus money count against this year's cap, or designate him a post-June 1 cut and have $4.6 million roll over to next year.

1. Tight end: Starter Marcus Pollard is a free agent and will not be back. The team signed Jeb Putzier, but he is projected as a third tight end. Will Heller is No. 2. There are no lead-pipe-locks in the first round, but there are bargains to be had with later picks like Tennessee's Brad Cottam.

2. Offensive line: The addition of guard Mike Wahle will ostensibly help Walter Jones rebound from two un-Jones-like seasons. The future Hall of Famer will be 34 years old this season, and it's time to think about grooming an apprentice. Up to six linemen could be taken in the first round this year, so the Seahawks will have options.

3. Defensive line: Rookie Brandon Mebane filled in admirably for the injured Chuck Darby, who signed with Detroit. The return of Marcus Tubbs is uncertain, which means the team needs more depth at the position. The Seahawks signed Chris Cooper this week to add depth, but they still need somebody who can get into a solid rotation with Mebane and Rocky Bernard. Some mock drafts have the Seahawks taking Kentwan Balmer in the first round.

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