Seattle Linebackers Face More Trouble: Suspension Inevitable?

The Seattle Seahawks have a lot invested in their starting linebackers.

In 2008, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu signed a $42 million extension that runs through 2015. Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was drafted in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the team spent its first-round selection on linebacker Aaron Curry. Curry, the fourth overall pick, was rewarded with a six-year, $60 million with $34 million guaranteed. Several scouts considered him the best prospect available in the draft; despite a rough rookie season, the sky is the limit for the talented Wake Forest product.

Last offseason, linebacker Leroy Hill was designated with the franchise tag. Shortly after the Seahawks rescinded the designation, Hill agreed to a six-year, $36 million deal. Hill’s big contract was agreed upon despite some off-field troubles shortly before the offseason began.

Tatupu, Curry, and Hill were supposed to be the foundation of an elite NFL defense.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the trio were only on the field together for eight plays during the 2009 regular season. Given their combined base salaries, that is $1.04 million per play from  what should have been a very talented group of linebackers.

Health has been an issue. A hamstring injury in the 2009 season-opener limited Lofa Tatupu’s effectiveness before a torn pectoral muscle put him on the injured reserve. Aaron Curry started fast but struggled through the second half of the season, missing two of the final games because of a stinger injury. Leroy Hill missed five games and set career-low numbers after suffering a torn groin muscle in the first week.

Despite struggles in 2009, this unit still looks promising for next season. Or does it?

Earlier this week, linebacker Leroy Hill pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and was sentenced to 12 months probation. If Hill complies with the terms of his probation, the original charge will be expunged from his record.

The National Football League has not punished Hill for his poor judgment, yet. Hill is a first-time offender, but his actions will probably warrant at least a one-game suspension. Shaun Ellis was suspended for one game and fined $100,000 last season following a 2008 arrest for marijuana possession.

We’ll have to wait and see, but all indications are that Hill will face punishment from the league, probably similar to Ellis’. For the Seahawks, this means one more week without Tatupu, Curry, and Hill on the field together.

Shaun Dolence: [email protected]
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Tags: Aaron Curry Arrest Defense Injury LeRoy Hill Linebacker Lofa Tatupu Marijuana National Football League NFL Draft Pro Bowl Seattle Seahawks Shaun Ellis Suspension

  • Three strikes and your out.

    If Hill messes one more time, Trade him. Three strikes and your out. Hawethorn is our best linebacker anyway.

  • Andrew Auger

    Nice write up Shaun.

    Hill doesn’t have three strikes on him btw… He is a first time offender.

    I think the Seahawks are foolish if they don’t utilize Hawthorne, I agree, he had the highest tackles total since I can remember.

    I personally feel they should bulk up Curry, have him play a hybrid DE role, that way they can stick Hawthorne into the LB trio.

    We need to run some 3-4 this year, our strength is LB, and trying to work against that would be dumb.

  • Eric

    You guys have to stop looking at raw numbers and look at the underlying reasons:

    Hawthorne picked up huge tackle numbers because the D-Line was awful. Hawthorne is talented, there is no doubt about that, but he is still raw.

    Running a 3-4 would require a lot more than just plugging an extra LB in there. You need a 330+ pound NT, and 275 pound DE’s that can stack up the run and still get a little pressure on the QB. Oh yeah, and Pete Carroll has built his entire coaching career on the defensive side of the ball, running a 4-3 (and VERY successfully, I might add).

    Hill, Curry, and Tatupu are all young and talented linebackers. There is no reason to give up on Hill because of one strike. If it becomes a pattern, then obviously I say dump the guy. All 3 of them should come into this season healthy and hungry to show an new coaching staff what they have to offer. One thing that PC has said that I really like, is that draft status and contracts are not going to determine who plays, only their performance in practices and games. Knowing that there is a young guy in Hawthorne ready to step up if those guys aren’t up to par should be all the motivation that these professional athletes need. Pete Carroll/Ken Norton coached LB’s had outstanding success at USC and in the pros (Tatupu, Matthews, Cushing), as well as fair success so far from Rivers and Maualuga. I think we’ll see more blitzing from the LB’s and those guys having the opportunity to wreak some havoc! Go Hawks!

  • Shaun Dolence

    Great comment, Eric. Excellent points and good analysis.

    Ironically, I was just working on a post that argues a 3-4 defense isn’t a feasible option in 2010.

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