RENTON, Wash. – Leroy Hill pounced immediately from his linebacker spot, slamming his two paws on Justin Forsett. A few plays later, newly drafted Aaron Curry chased down a receiver in the open field, followed closely by Lofa Tatupu.
It was just the image Seattle Seahawks fans worried they might not see after last weekend, when Hill’s franchise tag was lifted and he became a free agent, risking the dreams fans had of Tatupu, Hill and Curry playing on the same defense.
“It’s good to see those guys working together. It was great to see Leroy back out here,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said after the first day of the postdraft minicamp.
Removing Hill’s franchise designation was a calculated move by general manager Tim Ruskell. By lifting the one-year tender that would have paid Hill $8.3 million, Seattle was able to add an experienced, bigger cornerback in former Seahawk Ken Lucas, and signed veteran fullback Justin Griffith.
The risk was that Hill would be offended by the Seahawks’ move of making him a free agent at a time when other teams wouldn’t have as much money available to spend and would spurn any of Ruskell’s offers.
Hill said plenty of interest came from others, but Seattle constantly badgered his agent, Todd France. The result was a six-year deal with a guaranteed $15.5 million.
“I still felt like I was going to come back. Even when they dropped it, they said, in good faith, we can still try to work out a contract,” Hill said. “But they knew they sort of had to speed it up because other teams could come in. It was an interesting process.”
Hill skipped Seattle’s first minicamp last month and balked at signing the one-year tender, hoping instead for a long-term deal. But talks were stalled and Ruskell took a chance.
While some might have been put off by the move, Hill understood the motives. He enjoyed being a free agent for a few days, but was relieved to have the security of an extended deal.
“I sort of smiled. I was a free agent. I couldn’t really complain. And I chose not to sign (the tender), so it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m crushed, my career is over,’ or anything like that,” Hill said. “It was a business decision for them. Like I said, they called and were like, ‘We’re still going to try to work out a contract. Don’t worry about anything.’ That’s what happened.”
Because Hill skipped the previous minicamp, he was in the same position as Curry, the No. 4 overall pick in last week’s draft, learning the new terms and schemes of defensive coordinator Casey Bradley.
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