A Hard Look at Lofa Tatupu

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It was recently reported that Tatupu had undergone arthroscopic surgery on both knees.  I wasn’t exactly shocked to read this, however, it does beg the question:  What should the Hawks do with Tatupu?

This is a tough question for fans.  On one hand, he was a huge part of our Super Bowl defense and an instant leader in the locker room.  I remember when the Hawks practiced at EWU, Tatupu was more likely to be spotted with coaches than other players.  I believe that he came into the league with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove anyone who passed on him in the draft wrong

He did just that becoming a dominant linebacker in the NFL.  His intelligence was his most valuable asset as he rarely over pursued  and had a knack for picking the right angles on opposing ball carriers.  There was a span of years were Lofa Tatupu was easily the most popular player on the field in the eyes of fans and coaches alike.

So what happened?

He got paid, injured, and arrested. 

In December of 2007, Tatupu had the greatest game of his career collecting 3 interceptions and 11 tackles.  It was perhaps the greatest game ever played by a Seahawks linebacker, but it was also the peak of his career.  In March of 2008, after 3 100+ tackle seasons, Tatupu was signed to a lofty contract (42 million for 6 years) making him one of the 5 highest paid linebackers in the NFL. 

Two months later he got arrested for a DUI.

I appreciate that he took responsibility for his actions and apologized to the organization and fans, however, it seemed like a real stupid move from a guy who was so smart on the field.  If memory serves me correctly, he was driving his girlfriend’s car with a bunch of other guys going to a McDonalds.  The whole thing seemed surreal to me at the time.

The following season, Tatupu tore a pectoral muscle and was placed on IR following week 5.  He ended that season with 32 tackles. 

This year Tatupu collected 88 tackles, however, he only reached double digit tackles in a single game once during a loss to Tampa Bay.

So is Tatupu washed up? 

According to the responses on a recent PI forum, he is.  Yet I respectfully disagree.  Washed up is as pretty harsh term to put on a guy who has given so much to a franchise.  However, there is no question he is not the player he used to be.  In fact, I would go as far to say he is not even the best linebacker on the current roster.  Hawthorne collected 106 tackles and reached double digits 4 times this season. 

My problem with Tatupu is not that he has nothing left in the tank because he does.  He’s just not the defensive juggernaut he once was.  Yet his contract gets bigger every year as his skills decline. 

Ultimately, I would love to keep Tatupu.  I think he is still an NFL caliber player, but he is no longer on the list of elite players.  My hope is that he can restructure his contract to better represent his contributions and allow the Hawks to go after more valuable free agents.

I guess it is really going to come down to what Tatupu wants.  Does he really believe in what Pete Carroll is trying to do?  Does he have any allegiance left for Seattle?  If so, I could maybe see him moving to the weak side and taking a pay cut. 

This is a dangerous area in which the Hawks have a tendency to make bad decisions by giving older players huge contracts or in this case honoring a contract past a player’s prime.  I would like to see this trend end now with Tatupu. 

Either he takes the cut or gets cut. 

Either way, I will always appreciate his contributions early in his career.  He was one of the great Seahawk players for a limited amount of years.  But the Hawks need to look to the future and not towards the past when they’re writing the checks for next year’s payroll.

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Tags: 12th Man Free Agency Lofa Tatupu National Football League NFC West Seattle Seahawks

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