What to make of the Leroy Hill situation

April, 28, 2009
4/28/09
5:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A few thoughts on the Seahawks' decision to withdraw the franchise-player designation from Leroy Hill after drafting another linebacker, Aaron Curry, with the fourth overall choice:

  • Hill should have signed the one-year franchise offer for $8.3 million, a move that would have guaranteed the salary. If that wasn't apparent to him right away, it should have become apparent as the draft approached and the Seahawks appeared more likely to draft Curry. As I wrote when Hill skipped the most recent minicamp, "I'm not sure what Hill is accomplishing by staying away. Imagine if the Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry in the first round and then withdrew the franchise tag."
  • Withdrawing the tag seemed less likely early in the process, before teams set their rosters and settled on plans for the draft. Making the move at that point would have put Hill in position to find multiple suitors for lucrative deals. The timing is all wrong for Hill at this point. He'll be fortunate to get a better deal elsewhere now that teams have made key roster decisions. This is the time of year when teams tend to think they've solved their problems through the draft.
  • Hill is a very good player, but he is not one of the five best linebackers in the league, as the franchise value would indicate. Hill was overvalued at the $8.3 million franchise number and the Seahawks knew it. But by using the tag on Hill, the Seahawks were setting his value at that level whether or not they agreed with the value. Hill's agent had little choice but to pursue a long-term deal with that annual value as a benchmark. Therefore, the tag made a long-term deal less likely.
  • The Seahawks said they withdrew the tag to gain the salary-cap flexibility needed to pursue other options, from signing Ken Lucas and Justin Griffith to leaving open the possibility of acquiring veterans from other teams in draft-day trades. Lucas signed for one year and $2.3 million. Griffith signed for less than $700,000. Those were not bank-breaking deals. The fact that Seattle did not value Hill at $8.3 million would seem to trump cap-related concerns.
  • The longer Hill remains without a deal, the less predictable the situation becomes. Hill's agent will face increasing pressure as time passes without a deal. Cardinals linebacker and franchise player Karlos Dansby recently replaced his long-time agent after failing to get a long-term deal in Arizona. The dynamics can change once a player changes agents.
  • Both parties wanted to have it both ways. Seattle wanted to restrict Hill's options through the franchise tag without valuing him at the franchise salary. Hill wanted to be valued at $8.3 million while also soliciting offers from other teams. The decision Hill made in not signing the one-year offer will probably prove more costly than the Seahawks' decision to withdraw the tag. At least the Seahawks have Curry as insurance at the position. Hill will have a hard time getting $8.3 million per year.
Update: Additional information here.

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