On David Hawthorne's Seahawks departure

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
5:47
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Seattle Seahawks fans might recall linebacker David Hawthorne, then an emerging player, firing his agent and waiting til the last minute before signing a new contract in 2010.

Hawthorne was an exclusive-rights free agent at the time, meaning he had one choice: take a minimal one-year offer or hold out.

Exclusive-rights free agents usually re-sign as a matter of course, but not Hawthorne.

That series of events came to mind Tuesday when the New Orleans Saints announced they had reached agreement with Hawthorne as an unrestricted free agent.

A humbling market for inside linebackers suggested the Seahawks might be able to re-sign Hawthorne at a bargain rate, but pride sometimes intervenes. Players forced to take less money than anticipated sometimes feel more comfortable doing so elsewhere.

It's too early to say whether that was the case with Hawthorne. Initial news reports said contract terms were not available.

While Hawthorne led the Seahawks in tackles over the past three seasons, the Seahawks made other players higher priorities this offseason. They re-signed Red Bryant to a $35 million deal. They signed Matt Flynn for three years and $19 million.

Hawthorne visited Detroit and New Orleans. With the Saints, he joins former Seahawks teammate Will Herring. Hawthorne also gets a chance to start at middle linebacker if and when incumbent Jonathan Vilma serves a bounty-related suspension, as yet unannounced. Update: The Saints also signed Atlanta Falcons free-agent middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, so I'm not sure where Hawthorne will project in New Orleans. He played the weak side in Seattle previously.

The Seahawks are hurting for experienced depth at linebacker, but their leadership has welcomed the opportunity to address needs in the draft. K.J. Wright, a fourth-round choice in 2011, played well enough right away for the team to feel good about dumping Aaron Curry. Malcolm Smith, a seventh-rounder in 2011, is another young prospect.

Seattle appeared likely to address linebacker in the 2012 draft with or without Hawthorne in the picture. Boston College's Luke Kuechly is one option in the first round. The Seahawks have also fared well finding defensive starters in the middle rounds, from Wright to starting cornerback Richard Sherman, to Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor.

Re-signing veteran linebacker Leroy Hill is another option for Seattle.

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