Seattle Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell understood that rescinding the team’s franchise tag on linebacker Leroy Hill was a risky move that ultimately could blow up in his face.
However, this time Ruskell’s shrewdness paid off, speeding up negotiations as he anticipated, and the Seahawks announced Thursday that the 26-year-old linebacker had agreed to a multiyear deal.
Hill reportedly will receive a six-year, $38 million contract that includes $15.5 million in guaranteed money — $2 million more than the six-year, $36 million deal he reportedly turned down earlier in free agency.
Also, according to an ESPN report, a provision in the contract allows Hill to keep the guarantees if he is suspended for a Jan. 24 incident in which he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession after authorities in suburban Atlanta found him passed out behind the wheel at an intersection.
According to the report, the language of most contracts usually puts the guarantees at risk if a player has a suspension or an off-field incident. The guarantees in Hill’s six-year deal are protected from that, according to the report.
The Seahawks pulled the franchise tag, which included an $8.304 million, one-year tender, just hours after they drafted Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft on Saturday.
Ruskell and coach Jim Mora said the franchise tag actually hindered rather than helped negotiations, and they believed taking the risk of pulling the tag would help intensify talks.
Mora appeared on a local sports radio talk show on KJR-AM Thursday morning, stating a deal with Hill was imminent.
Mora said by drafting Curry, the Seahawks had softened the blow if they lost Hill.
Mora also said Seattle did not want to risk a long holdout because of the mostly new defensive scheme the team is installing.
“A majority of what we’re doing on defense terminology-wise and assignment-wise will be different than what Leroy has done his first four years here,” Mora told KJR. “So he is missing valuable time when he’s not here in order for him to be a productive football player for us on the field next fall.
“To ask a guy to come in, in a new scheme, a week before the first regular-season game — which happens a lot of times with these franchise guys — and be productive is a pipe dream. It just doesn’t happen very often.”
The signing came on the eve of the team’s first minicamp since Mora took over as coach. The Seahawks will run through drills starting at 1:15 p.m. today at their Renton training facility, will have two practices on Saturday and another on Sunday.
The signing of Hill caps a solid offseason for Ruskell, during which he filled most of the team’s needs either through draft or free agency, putting the Seahawks in position to rebound from a disappointing, 4-12 campaign.
With Hill now in the fold, Seattle — on paper — has one of the most talented linebacker units in the league, with a group that includes Hill, Curry and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
However, with Hill, Tatupu and departed Pro Bowler Julian Peterson, who was dealt to Detroit this offseason, Seattle’s defense ranked 30th overall in total defense last season, so the Seahawks must show much improvement on the field.
A third-round pick (98th overall) in the 2005 draft, Hill has started 50 of 56 games for Seattle, totaling 321 tackles (237 solo), 13.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during his four-year career.
Hill likely will remain at weakside linebacker. Curry is slotted to fill in for Peterson at strongside linebacker.
Curry said earlier this week he’s ready to get on the field again after his four-month audition for the NFL.
“I love the game of football,” Curry said. “It’s a little bit past love – I want success with the game of football. And to not be able to play actual football for so long, it’s tough for me. ...
“Football is pretty much my life. It’s what I love doing.”
And as the No. 4 pick overall, Curry understands he has a lot to live up to in Seattle.
“I wouldn’t quite call it pressure,” he said. “I know there’s a responsibility for me as the first pick to definitely come in and be an impact player right away. And I have faith in my work ethic and faith in the coaching staff to make me a good player.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437