Now, with the signing of Julius Jones less than a week later, Seahawks fans and analysts alike all know the impending doom of Shaun Alexander.
Two years ago, it would have been treason in Seattle to think of releasing All-Pro, NFL MVP, Record-Holding Shaun "Touchdown" Alexander. That is why then-Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke slapped the franchise tag on him quickly when he even thought of testing the market.
There has always been a greater force than just his numbers. The City of Seattle has always loved him, ever since he stepped in for veteran Ricky Watters in 2001. There wasn’t a guy the green and blue would rather see scoring a touchdown, and he just so happened to score a lot of them (100 rushing touchdowns so far in his career). He had a gap-tooth smile and an irresistible charm just made all Seahawks fans, young and old, giddy and asking themselves, “What more can he do?”
With the designation of Alexander as the franchise player, the Seahawks became lackadaisical with their true top-caliber player, letting Steve Hutchinson sign the biggest contract ever for a guard with the Vikings, without even trying to match the price.
There began the downward spiral of the running system if not the entire offense as a whole.
2006 started out poorly, and ended the same way. In his first three games he combined for 187 yards (2.8 yards per carry), two touchdowns, two fumbles, and a lot of disappointed fans as he had been originally projected to go leaps and bounds ahead of what he had done the year before.
He sat for the next two games thanks to a knee injury, and then came back in a losing effort to the 49ers rushing for a total of 37 yards in 17 carries. Although glimpses of 2005 Alexander were shown during that season (201 yards vs Green Bay and 140 vs San Diego), the All-Pro runner never seemed to return to himself.
A “fully-recovered” Shaun Alexander came into the 2007 season strong, hyping up previously-saddened fans with a 105 yard effort against Tampa Bay. But, he just got worse and worse, as after week four, his highest yardage amount was a mere 73 yards against a hurting Baltimore defense.
Blame it on his cracked wrist, or blame it on his effort, but Shaun Alexander couldn’t get anything working, and Seattle fans were sick of it, often resorting to booing him at home games.
Now, Seattle sees themselves in a peculiar position. They have signed two very good backs this offseason, as well as a new left guard who could amp the position to almost-Hutchinson heights, and there seems to be dwindling room for disappointment, something that Alexander has brought a boatload of the past two seasons.
Seattle is ready to see him leave, but the Seahawks salary cap is not. Not only will they still have to give him a good portion of his contract, but they will take a big salary cap hit in 2009 if he is kicked out.
The biggest problem that the fans and management have with him is his two-sided stubbornness. Toward the fans, he is unwilling to admit that he has failed, and instead says that he is going to keep working hard and that he hasn’t played up to his standards either. Toward management (and the fans), he seems to not be in any hurry to restructure his 8 year, $62 million deal (largest ever for a running back).
A big debate among the Seahawks forums now is whether or not it is right to release Alexander after all he is done for the Seahawks, I take a moderate approach. He has brought life to a previously dark Seahawks running game, but once he lost support from his teammates it all fell apart (as did his body).
The Seahawks owe him nothing more than what he has been paid and a big fat “thank you.” There is nothing immoral about releasing the man, as it is strictly a business decision. The new Seahawks running backs (and Maurice Morris) can do what he can now, and they can do it for much less.
Now, it is a waiting game. Shaun Alexander has one of two options, either, he agrees to a pay cut, or he is released from the team. It isn’t a great situation to be in for him.
Most Seattle fans would love to see him on the team, but they are realistically unwilling to financially cap themselves from signing other, and possibly more-impactful players just to hold onto the past.
The News Tribune says that it is likely Alexander will be a post-June cut, but they do not see this debacle running anywhere near the start of training camp.
Regardless, with the limited but successful history of Seahawks President Tim Ruskell to date, Seattle can feel somewhat at ease, for every managerial decision he has made so far has turned gold (just ask Patrick Kerney).