The Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday reached a seven-year, $52.5 million agreement with Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, avoiding him being tagged the team's franchise player for the fourth consecutive year.
Jones also receives a signing bonus in excess of $16 million and the new deal pays him $26.7 million over the first three years of the contract. Jones becomes the second highest paid offensive lineman behind Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden, but his payout for the first three years is more.
Jones has missed the past three training camps but was selected to the Pro Bowl each season. Last year was probably his best: He didn't allow a sack in 16 regular-season games and earned his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl.
The Seahawks, who were considering the franchise tag again for Jones, may now opt to use it on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck if the sides cannot reach an agreement.
As a sign of his displeasure at the short-term deals, Jones
skipped most of the last four Seattle training camps at Eastern
Washington University in Cheney. Last season, Jones did not report
until a week before the season opener against New Orleans and spent
the summer working out at home in Huntsville, Ala., doing all the
things he believed he would have been doing at training camp:
lifting weights, drills and physical conditioning.
So will the camp-skipping come to an end?
"I'm definitely going to be in Cheney," Jones said.
"Walter has been such a good player," said Seahawks consultant
Mike Reinfeldt. Both Barnes and Jones said Reinfeldt was a key to
getting the deal done.
"He's such an integral part in what we do and I hope and think
that signing him will give us some momentum to sign the other
guys," Reinfeldt added.
Jones is the first of 16 unrestricted free agents to reach an agreement for next season. Also on that list are nine starters, including Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander.
Also among the 15 remaining are defensive end Chike Okeafor, cornerback
Ken Lucas, tight end Itula Mili, center Robbie Tobeck, guard Chris
Gray and special teams standout Alex Bannister.
And Seattle is still without a team president. Bob Whitsitt was
fired on Jan. 14 and a replacement has yet to be named.
Jones hopes he is the start of some key signings for Seattle.
"I hope it can be a domino effect and get those guys signed and
get everybody in here working toward next year," Jones said.
Reinfeldt was hired as a consultant by Seahawks owner Paul Allen
on Feb. 3. Reinfeldt had worked as the Seahawks' contract
negotiator, but left the team before the 2004 season.
"Mike was the key to this whole thing," Barnes said. "It just
seemed that Mike had a lot of freedom to go ahead and we were able
to talk about Walter as a player and what he means to the
Barnes spent last week with Jones at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii
discussing the deal. Without Reinfeldt's work, Jones said he would
have tested the free agent market if the Seahawks did not franchise
"Once they brought Mike Reinfeldt in I knew it would go fast,
but I didn't know it would go this fast," Jones said. "I'm very
relieved it got done."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.