Posted by: Shaun Dolence
February 19th is the deadline for teams to designate franchise or transition players. The next few days are especially significant for Seahawks fans, because the franchise must decide whether it wants to designate Leroy Hill as the franchise player.
Unfortunately from what I’ve heard, it sounds as if the Seahawks are nowhere close with Leroy Hill in terms of a new contract. It is starting to look like they’ll have to either designate him the franchise player, or allow him to test the market in free agency. To make matters worse, it appears the Cardinals are leaning towards retaining linebacker Karlos Dansby by way of the franchise tag. This complicates things for the Seahawks – with Dansby off the list of unrestricted free agents, potential bidders for his services may now be more attracted to Leroy Hill should the Seahawks let him hit the market.
Because of Leroy Hill’s recent off the field incident, however, this already muddled situation has become even more complicated. I’ve already addressed my position on Hill’s minor offense in a previous post, and I haven’t changed my opinion since then. There is no way we can let Leroy Hill walk away from this organization (especially without compensation).
You’ve probably heard of Lofa Tatupu. Yeah, you know – the player whose name you see on the backs of thousands of fans every Sunday at Qwest. Tatupu, when asked who the best Seahawks linebacker was, confessed, “I’d say Leroy is our best linebacker. It’s tough to say that. I’ve got a lot of pride. Julian’s got a lot of pride. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but he’d be wrong in saying that Leroy isn’t our best linebacker.”
Are you going to argue with that? Leroy Hill is the best linebacker of a great bunch, and there is no need to diminish the talent level on this team by letting him walk. Some will disagree, claiming Hill will cost too much, or that he can be easily replaced by the draft.
Designating Leroy Hill as the franchise player will cost the Seahawks $8.3 million in 2009. Expensive and not quite as preferable as getting a long-term deal done, but better than the likely alternative: replacing Hill with an unproven rookie in April’s draft. Hill’s replacement, if found through the draft, would probably be Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry with the fourth overall pick.
Curry, an outstanding collegiate player, is an unknown commodity in the NFL and a gamble to replace a linebacker of Hill’s aptitude. Not only that, but the price tag attached to the fourth overall pick would be just as costly as the franchise tag – former fourth overall picks Darren McFadden and Gaines Adams signed contracts for 6 years, $60 million ($26 million guaranteed), and 5 years, $45 million ($19.3 million guaranteed), respectively. Curry would likely command a comparable deal, expected to be worth more.
Not only would replacing Hill with the fourth overall pick be costly, it would be wasteful. It would almost be like running in place; you’re moving, but you’re not getting anywhere. Why replace talent when you can retain and add talent? Keeping Hill would allow us to keep our group of playmaking linebackers intact, and utilize the fourth overall pick to inject the additional talent into the organization. In my opinion, that is a win-win situation.
I’m interested in hearing what the rest of you think – what should the Seahawks do with Leroy Hill? You’re on the clock. Tag or no tag?