Tim Ruskell and the Seattle Seahawks Needed This Offseason
Tim Ruskell needed this offseason.
After a smashing debut in 2005, when he retooled the Seahawks' defense and received tons of credit as the team reached the Super Bowl for the first time, his star had begun to fade amid a series of failed draft picks and veteran deals, and many fans were wondering whether he was the guy to lead the Seahawks in the post-Mike Holmgren era.
But he put down many of those doubts with a stellar performance this year—his best job, in fact, since he became team president.
Ruskell recently told reporters it's too early to evaluate the personnel moves, but he was obviously happy with what he and his people were able to accomplish in the wake of a shockingly disappointing 4-12 season.
"I will say this: When I evaluate what our plan was and how it came through, I can easily say we did well," the fifth-year team president said. "We had some targets coming out of the season, and we hit a lot of those targets."
It started in free agency, when the Seahawks signed 330-pound, space-eating defensive tackle Colin Cole and then shocked everyone by luring wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to Seattle with a deal averaging $8 million per year.
Ruskell also re-signed starting right guard Ray Willis and added depth on the D-line by trading for Cory Redding.
Then he had the perfect draft, ending up with the best player (linebacker Aaron Curry), a versatile lineman who should start right away (Max Unger) and a blazing-fast receiver (Deon Butler), in addition to an extra first-round pick in 2010.
After that, Ruskell won a game of chicken with franchise linebacker Leroy Hill, giving the Seahawks one of the very best LB units in the league for years to come, and he brought back cornerback Ken Lucas, who will start opposite Marcus Trufant as he did in 2003 and 2004.
It was Ruskell's best job as Seattle's president, and it came at the perfect time, as the team tries to rebound from a horrible season, now under the direction of a new coaching staff.
The only questions that might follow Ruskell out of this offseason:
1) Did Ruskell overpay Hill at over $6 million a year?
2) Why did the Seahawks decide to get rid of Julian Peterson just three years after Ruskell signed him? And after Ruskell sent Peterson to Detroit for Redding, why did Ruskell redo Redding's deal to make him a free agent after 2009?
As for Hill, he is guaranteed $13 million over the next two years. If he plays up to the contract, the team probably will pay a $2.5 million roster bonus and $4.5 million salary in 2011. If not, the team can let him go after just two years.
With the Peterson situation, Ruskell's MO has been to keep good draft picks with contract extensions (Trufant, Tatupu, Hill) but cut free agents after just two or three years. He signed eight free agents in 2005, and none of them were on the team last season. Only two—Chuck Darby and Kevin Bentley—lasted longer than two years.
In 2006, Ruskell added six free agents, led by Peterson. Apparently the Seahawks didn't think Peterson was worth the $6.5 million he was due to make in 2009 and were for some reason willing to simply cut him.
But they will least get Redding for a year, and, because they drafted Curry and managed to keep Hill, that seemingly silly move shouldn't come back to haunt them.
The Peterson trade leaves receiver Nate Burleson as the only player from the 2006 free-agent class still with the Seahawks.
In 2007, Ruskell signed Patrick Kerney and safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell; and by next year, Grant will probably be the only one left.
That's a lot of veteran turnover. Meanwhile, the Seahawks still have 23 of the 30 players they drafted under Ruskell from 2005 to 2008.
Ruskell obviously prefers to build long term through the draft, which is why it was so important for him to nail it in a year when the Seahawks picked so high (fourth overall).
Getting Curry, Unger, and Butler—plus the 2010 first-rounder—was the superfecta. And then, after pulling the franchise tag off Hill, Ruskell still managed to re-sign him a few days later.
That finished off a stellar, almost perfect offseason.
And boy did Ruskell and the Seahawks need it.
For a comprehensive look at Tim Ruskell's best and worst moves with the Seahawks, check out "From the Top" at Football.com.
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