Deal prevents Alexander from getting franchise tag

In a compromise move that provides the Seattle Seahawks the services of their premier runner for one more season, but possibly not beyond the 2005 campaign, star tailback Shaun Alexander on Tuesday evening signed a one-year contract with the club and will report to camp on time later this week.

The one-year deal is for $6.32 million, the same amount Alexander would have received had he signed the one-year qualifying offer for a "franchise" tailback, a concession that the Seahawks have been attempting to gain for months.

But there is a fairly monumental caveat included in the contract: The deal stipulates that the Seahawks cannot designate Alexander a franchise player again at the end of the 2005 season. So unless the two sides reach a deal on an extension, which could be difficult given the acrimony that built up over the spring, Alexander would be an unrestricted free agent next spring and free to leave.

The contract, which is totally guaranteed, also precludes the Seahawks from trading the five-year veteran during the season without his approval.

Alexander will report to camp at Eastern Washington University on Thursday and be on the field for practice on Friday.

Discussions aimed at reaching a compromise apparently have been ongoing for about a week and were ramped up in the last few days. Alexander visited team headquarters on Tuesday to finalize the deal.

There have been similar compromises, in which the club forfeits the right to use a franchise marker on a player, but such deals are rare.

Throughout the offseason, Alexander had rebuffed the Seahawks' one-year, franchise qualifying offer. Had he done so, Seattle management would then have been able to negotiate a long-term deal. Three weeks ago, Alexander announced that he would not report to camp without a long-term contract and would consider sitting out the entire season.

Certainly, some advantage in Tuesday's deal goes to Alexander, who almost certainly will enter the open market after the 2005 season. But even unrestricted tailbacks have found it difficult of late to secure lucrative long-term contracts. The Seahawks will have a year to locate, or develop, a viable replacement to the standout back.

A first-round choice in the 2000 draft, Alexander, 27, has rushed for 5,937 yards and 62 touchdowns on 1,347 carries. The former Alabama star posted a career-best 1,696 yards in 2004, finishing second in the NFL in rushing. He also has 173 catches for 1,309 yards and 10 touchdowns in 80 games, including 60 starts.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.