Sunday, May 2, 2010
What to know in the case of Leroy Hill
By Mike Sando
The Seahawks have a largely new coaching staff and lots to sort through even before training camp.
This is a good time for rookies and veterans to make a positive first impression on the new staff, and to figure out how they'll fit. Even 15-year vet Lawyer Milloy decided it was important to sign in time for the postdraft camp.
That's why it's a little curious for the team to tell linebacker Leroy Hill to stay away for the first two minicamps, ostensibly to let Hill get his personal life in order following a recent domestic-violence arrest. The team also reportedly didn't want Hill to become a distraction.
That could be all that's at work here, but the circumstances are also consistent with what happens when a team is considering whether to keep a player at all. At the very least, Hill cannot afford another misstep.
Keeping Hill away in the short term makes good business sense for Seattle. The team could have been liable for all or part of Hill's $6 million salary this season if he reported to camp and suffered a serious injury. Keeping Hill away prevents that from happening. In the meantime, hard-charging new linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. can figure out whether he thinks the team can proceed at linebacker without Hill. Will Herring and David Hawthorne played pretty well at times last season. The team also signed linebacker Matt McCoy, who had been with Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley at Tampa Bay.
Hill's long-term future with the team was already muddy in May 2009, when he signed a long-term deal that gave the Seahawks an easy out after two seasons. The abolition of a salary cap for the 2010 season made it easy for the Seahawks to bail on the deal even earlier. Hill's subsequent domestic-violence arrest and plea deal in a marijuana-possession case could even give Seattle grounds to recoup bonus money paid on the deal if the team decides to move on without him. The absence of a salary cap also makes it easier to trade Hill.
The deal featured a $5 million salary in 2009 and a $2 million option bonus for 2010. The option bonus was triggered early enough for $400,000 in annual proration to count against the 2009 cap. If the Seahawks decided to part with Hill to save that $6 million in salary, they could conceivably try to recoup $1.6 million of the $2 million option bonus.
I don't think the Seahawks are to that point in their thinking. It's just something to keep in mind when mapping out the possibilities.