The Seattle Seahawks have reportedly removed the franchise tag on Leroy Hill, allowing the outside linebacker to become an unrestricted free agent and test the market.
I absolutely love Leroy Hill and the talent he brings to the table, but this is an excellent move. A very shrewd and efficient decision, if you ask me.
Leroy Hill, who was coming off of a poor, injury-riddled season (join the club), demonstrated poor judgment in the off-season and probably didn’t warrant a franchise tag – he is a talented linebacker, but definitely not worthy of a contract similar to that of James Harrison’s. Harrison was the defensive player of the year and played a huge role in winning the Super Bowl; Leroy Hill didn’t make the Pro Bowl and was found unconscious behind the wheel with marijuana in his possession.
According to Tim Ruskell, the selection of Aaron Curry does not directly impact the Leroy Hill scenario. The team will continue to negotiate with him, and both sides (presumably) would like to get a long-term deal done.
With the franchise tag pulled from Leroy Hill, all of the leverage in contract negotiations goes back to the organization. Hill had yet to sign the one-year franchise tender, and was probably looking for a contract similar to Harrison’s (six years, $51+ million).
So far, it appears as if Hill has completely refused reasonable offers from the organization. Now he’ll get his chance to either prove them wrong, or return to Seattle at the right price. In a market that is rather dried up, and a day after several teams invested top picks in linebackers, I’m thinking the latter is more likely.
Tim Ruskell was probably reserved about using the franchise tag on Leroy Hill. It was the right decision at the time, however, because if Hill leaves for big money in the opening days of free agency, your draft day strategies become more predictable – not to mention the gaping hole left at linebacker. Hill may not be a franchise-caliber player, but it was necessary to retain him (or at least make the attempt to) to protect the core talent of the defense. Now, with the addition of Curry, the Seahawks can pursue a more reasonable long-term deal with Hill, and not have to worry about the possibility of losing him to another franchise.
As mentioned previously, the Seahawks have captured all of the leverage now in negotiations. I doubt a team will step up to pay Leroy Hill big money at this point, and he’ll likely have the opportunity to return to Seattle at the right price. Hill should’ve signed the tender when he had the chance. This move is making Tim Ruskell look like a genius.
This move was a shock at first, but makes more sense the more I put it into perspective. Some people have compared it to the Steve Hutchinson blunder after the 2005 season; there couldn’t be a worse comparison. The Hutchinson blunder was just that – an enormous mistake. The decision to pull Leroy Hill’s franchise designation is a shrewd business decision, and will likely save the Seahawks a headache resulting from an overpriced, long-term obligation.
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