Seahawks release LB Lofa Tatupu

Updated: July 31, 2011, 10:17 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

RENTON, Wash. -- First Matt Hasselbeck was told his decade at quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks was over.

Now it's middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu being shown the door, leaving the Seahawks with just two remaining members of their Super Bowl team from six seasons ago.

Tatupu met with coach Pete Carroll on Saturday night and asked for his release after the Seahawks asked him to take a pay cut, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Tatupu was then cut by Seattle on Sunday morning.

It was announced as a "mutual decision," a line that was regularly repeated by Carroll following practice on Sunday afternoon.

But throughout his explanation, Carroll never gave a clear reason as to why the decision was made to part with Tatupu.

"It was a few days of talking and really good conversations and putting things in perspective and recognizing that it's going to take time to figure it out and see what is best. I love Lofa as a football player and like him on our football team. I told him that, I was clear about that. He's done a tremendous job and he's still a terrific football player," Carroll said. "But under the circumstances right now it was just the right thing to do to let him go ahead and hit it and see where he goes from there."

He leaves after anchoring the middle of Seattle's defense for most of six seasons, including three Pro Bowl appearances and a major hand in taking the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl appearance following his rookie season in 2005.

It certainly wasn't a simple decision for Carroll or easy for linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.

Tatupu played for Carroll and Norton at USC and Carroll raved about the importance of having Tatupu on his defense from the second he arrived back in the NFL with the Seahawks.

But ultimately the decision was made to move on without the Seahawks' defensive captain from every season since the 2005 playoff run that ended with Seattle's loss to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. Carroll said the decision was made so early in training camp in part to give Tatupu options in free agency.

"It's always business," Carroll said. "There is always business involved in every decision you make and there is no decision in personnel one way or another that isn't affected in that regard."

But the 28-year-old Tatupu has struggled with injuries the past few seasons and seen a decline in production. He missed most of 2009 after tearing a pectoral muscle. Last season he played in all 16 games, but his 88 tackles were the lowest of his career in a full season and he needed surgery on both knees in the offseason. Tatupu's prime was his first few seasons when he recorded more than 100 tackles and went to the Pro Bowl each year between 2005-07.

During the first couple of days of training camp, Tatupu was in a practice jersey, but mostly just a spectator while his teammates went through drills. Tatupu signed a contract extension back in 2008 that locked him up with the Seahawks potentially through the 2015 season and could have paid him up to $42 million. He was scheduled to make $4.35 million in base salary for the 2011 season.

A few days of conversations between Tatupu and Seattle's management ultimately led to Sunday's move. Now Seattle is trying to replace both its offensive and defensive leaders.

"We actually talked all of yesterday, just off and on or whatever. I've been through it and it's tough," said linebacker Leroy Hill, who was part of the same draft class as Tatupu. "It's a tough decision to make and you know he made his decision and you got to respect him for his decision and, like I said, move on."

David Hawthorne will move back to inside linebacker after shifting outside last season. Hawthorne took Tatupu's place after he was injured in 2009 and led Seattle in tackles each of the past two seasons.

"He meant a lot, for me especially because I came in undrafted and he kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot," Hawthorne said. "So today was a hard day for the linebackers."

Hill -- who re-signed earlier this week to a one-year deal and joins cornerback Marcus Trufant as the only remaining members from Seattle's Super Bowl team -- will get the first shot at outside linebacker. Seattle also grabbed rookies K.J. Wright (fourth-round) and Malcolm Smith (seventh-round) during the April draft.

In total only 16 players remain on the roster from when Carroll took over in January 2010.

"We came in together, same position. We're sort of tied together when it comes to Seattle," Hill said. "I choked up a little bit, but it's all good."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.