Monday, April 27, 2009

Failing Franchise [Tag]

Why is Tim Ruskell so scared of the franchise tag? This Leroy Hill thing has me flustered. I love the guy. He’s as sure a tackler as there is in the game and he drops bombs on ballcarriers. He’s instinctive and makes plays. It defies reason to let this guy, at 27 years old at the beginning of the season, potentially walk away for nothing (or what would amount to a compensatory pick in next year’s draft).

Because they were unable to get a long-term deal done, they did the reasonable and responsible thing; they franchised him. Now Ruskell says that they removed the tag because things weren’t progressing. He cited that Hill didn’t show up for voluntary workouts as one of the reasons for removing the tag. That doesn’t even begin to make sense. Since when do franchise players ever take part in voluntary workouts or even mini-camp and most (if not all of) training camp? However, like all GMs in the league, Ruskell is not being 100% truthful with his statements. It’s impossible that he believes that because Hill did not report to volunteer camp that they need to go in another direction. It’s clear that he’d like Hill here, but ONLY at the right price. I get the sense that if Hill asks for a dollar over, then they won’t pay it and be fine with him leaving. I don’t agree with that philosophy and they are misreading Hill’s talent and what he means to this team.

It’s pretty clear that there are other things at work here. The two sides must be so far apart in negotiations rendering it nearly impossible that a deal will get done. As we all know, it’s all about guaranteed money in NFL contracts so that must be the sticking point. The reported contact that he turned down was six years at $36M. I haven’t seen the signing bonus or any other guaranteed amount assigned to that contract, but it must not be that high. I’m guessing that the guaranteed amount was somewhere in the neighborhood of $10M and Hill told them to put that figure in a diaper, where it belongs. He’s probably thinking that he’s worth at least $25M that amount, maybe more, and he’ll definitely get it elsewhere, if given the chance. Well, removing the franchise tag gives him that chance, and it’s a dumbass move.

We’ve seen this movie before with Steve Hutchinson and I didn’t like it then. I don’t like this now. Hill may not be as important to the defense as Hutchinson was to the offense, but it’s pretty close. It wouldn’t make sense to break the bank for Hill, but that’s not what the issue is here. I didn’t want them to overspend, but I did want them to keep Hill, and the franchise tag accomplishes that.

It’s hard to understand Ruskell’s willingness to give away every bit of leverage that he had. If the franchise tag causes ill will, who cares? At least Hill would still be guaranteed to be on the roster. He’s not going to sit out a season if he stands to lose $8.3M. He was on his first contract as a third-round pick; he hadn’t had his big (relatively) payday yet. He’s not going to turn that down, we’re not talking about a first round pick who made tons of money before earning it. We’re talking about a guy who is hungry to play well because of his pride (I guess) and because he wants to get paid. He’d be playing for next year’s deal with another team or the long-term deal he was seeking with the Seahawks. At the very least, he’d be franchised again and make close to $9M the next year.

If he walks, I will be furious and so will anyone else who follows this team. Yes, I want Ken Lucas back here, but not at the price of losing Hill.

I like some of the things Ruskell has done since he’s been here. He’s drafted some good players in Tatupu, Hill, Mebane, Carlson… but there have been some huge misses and I’m concerned that he’s blowing it a little. I still have faith, but it will be rocked if Hill bolts.

The optimist in me says that Hill wants to stay in Seattle because he sees that he’ll have a good opportunity to blow up in a new defensive scheme. From all accounts he likes being here and has reiterated that several times. Optimism says that he’ll stay. The pessimist (or more accurately, the realist) in me says that he’s gone and that he’ll sign elsewhere for the money that he’s seeking. I can’t blame the guy for doing so. He is now an unrestricted free agent and he wants to get paid. He’s earned that payday and if a team doesn’t swoop in and offer him a decent offer, I’d be shocked. Of course, Seattle screwed him a little by waiting until after the draft to remove the tag, but still. He’s a prized commodity and a team like Kansas City should sprint to get to him.

Another bizarre thing that Ruskell said was that they wouldn’t have done this if they hadn’t drafted Aaron Curry. Essentially he’s saying that they are comfortable if Hill leaves. If that was the case, then why didn’t they go after another LB in the draft? I’m very confused that they picked up Nick Reed. What good is a 6’1 245 lb DE in the NFL unless his name is Dwight Freeney? He’s a 4.71 40 guy (not a 4.38 40 guy, like Freeney) I could see if the Hawks ran a 3-4 defense and wanted to line the guy up as an outside LB in that scheme, but won’t he just get his ass kicked against NFL tackles since he’s undersized and not overly fast? Plus, I don’t know if I can get behind a guy who wore a longish t-shirt under his jersey.

I suppose they didn’t see any other player of value at that level, but I don’t see how this guy gets on the field. I’d love to be wrong about this.

1 comment:

Josh said...

I'm surprised you mention his undershirt and not the clown-town costume he's wearing over the shirt.

I'm semi-OK with Lucas istead of Hill. The wasted picks on DB's the last few years trying to replace Lucas have been painful.

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