Leroy Hill Is the Latest Victim of the Seattle Seahawks' Payday Plague

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Leroy Hill Is the Latest Victim of the Seattle Seahawks' Payday Plague
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

A disturbing trend has developed in Seahawk Land over the last few years, and it has continued this year. It’s the Curse of the Cash, the Bane of the Booty, the Payday Plague.

Since 2004, almost every Seahawk who has received a monster contract has missed a good chunk of time soon after.

The latest victim of the Malignancy of Money jinx is linebacker Leroy Hill. In the first year of a six-year deal worth $38 million, Hill lasted less than one quarter before suffering a groin injury that figures to keep him out for the next six weeks.

Hill’s misfortune follows injuries to Grant Wistrom, Bobby Taylor, Andre Dyson, Kelly Herndon, Jamie Sharper, Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, Patrick Kerney, Mike Wahle, Sean Locklear, and Marcus Trufant.

In the last five years, the only guys who received contracts worth $3 million or more per year and didn’t miss significant time in the first or second year of the deal were Walter Jones, Julian Peterson, Deon Grant, and Lofa Tatupu.

In 2004, the Seahawks gave Wistrom a team-record $14 million signing bonus. He missed seven games that year due to injury. The Seahawks cut him in 2007 after three mostly ineffective years and $21 million.

They also signed Taylor to a four-year deal worth about $12 million in 2004. But a knee injury limited him to nine games, and they cut him after just one season.

In 2005, the Hawks replaced Taylor and Ken Lucas with Dyson and Herndon, and that didn’t turn out much better. Dyson didn’t do much at all to live up to his five-year, $17.5 million deal. He started only 10 games and was cut after the season.

Herndon received a five-year deal worth $15 million, and he played okay until he missed the final four games with a knee injury. He returned for the playoffs, but he missed the 2006 playoffs after breaking his ankle in the season finale. The Seahawks cut him after that season.

Sharper got the same deal as Dyson but missed the second half of the Super Bowl season with a knee injury. The Hawks let him go after that.

In 2006, Alexander was coming off an 1,880-yard rushing season that earned him the NFL MVP award. The Seahawks paid him for his accomplishments, signing him to an eight-year deal worth $62 million. But he missed nine games over the next two years with a variety of ailments (wrist, ankle, knee), and the Seahawks parted ways with him last year.

The Seahawks also paid free agents Burleson and Branch in 2006. Burleson, who cost a third-round pick as a restricted free agent, received what initially was billed as a seven-year, $49 million deal. In reality, it was a five-year contract worth about $17 million.

The Hawks have gotten mixed results from that investment. Burleson struggled with injuries in 2006, catching only 18 passes. Then he had a nice 2007 season before blowing out his knee in Week One of the 2008 season.

Branch, obtained for Seattle’s 2007 first-round pick, got a much bigger payday—$39 million over six years—and has not been on the field to earn very much of it. They've paid him $22.5 million, but he has yet to play a full season, playing in only 33 of a possible 48 games (Burleson has the same numbers).

Hasselbeck signed his six-year, $48 million contract in 2005 and then promptly led the Hawks to their best season ever. But the next season, he suffered a knee injury and missed four games. By the time he returned, there was no way to get in sync with Branch and Burleson in time for the playoffs.

Hasselbeck came back in 2007 to post his best NFL season and set several team passing records. But a back problem sidelined him for nine games in 2008, causing many to wonder whether he could regain his 2007 form for this season. So, since signing his big contract, he has played in 51 of a possible 64 games.

Even though Kerney was coming back from a chest injury in 2007, the Seahawks signed him to a six-year deal worth $37.5 million. The gamble paid off the first year, as Kerney recorded 14.5 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl. But a shoulder problem sidelined him for nine games in 2008, and it remains to be seen how much the 32-year-old defensive end has left.

Last year, the Seahawks gave Locklear a five-year deal worth $32 million, and he ended up missing the last four games with a toe injury—continuing his trend of missing time with nagging issues.

Also, last year Tatupu got an eight-year extension worth $42 million and turned in his worst season, as a litany of injuries limited him. He missed only one game, but he was snakebitten all year with injuries to his knee, thumb, head, and groin.

Then there was Wahle, who inked a five-year deal worth $20 million last year. After committing half a dozen or so ill-timed holding penalties in the first 10 games, Wahle ended up on injured reserve with a bad shoulder in December (probably from so many matador moves). Then he failed his physical before camp this year and retired.

The Seahawks also re-signed Trufant to a big deal in 2008 ($50 million over six years), and he played with a broken hand for most of last season. Then a mysterious back problem sidelined him throughout this year’s camp, and he’s out for at least the first six games.

Now there’s Hill's groin injury.

Not counting recent signees Tatupu, Trufant, and Hill, the 12 other aforementioned big-money, big-injury players have been paid about $148 million for playing in only 73 percent (279) of the games they were paid for (384) since signing their lucrative contracts. That breaks down to $530,000 per game played. That’s a lot of money and a lot of games missed.

The Curse of the Cash, the Bane of the Booty, the Plague of the Payday: Whatever you want to call it, having a dozen key guys miss a quarter of the games over the last five years goes a long way toward explaining why the Hawks haven’t been able to get back to the Super Bowl since 2005.

 

Money for nothin’

Wistrom: $21 million for 41 games (three years) = $512k per game

Taylor: $4m for 9g (1y) = $444k/g

Dyson: $3.5m for 8g (1y) = $437k/g

Herndon: $6.5m for 28g (2y) = $232k/g 

Sharper: $3.5m for 8g (1y) = $437k/g

Hasselbeck: $35m for 51g (4y) = $686k/g

Alexander: $18.5m for 23g (2y) = $804k/g

Branch: $22.5m for 33g (3y) = $682k/g

Burleson: $11.2m for 33g (3y) = $339k/g

Kerney: $11.5m for 23g (2y) = $500k/g

Locklear: $5m for 12g (1y) = $417k/g

Wahle: $5.6m for 10g (1y) = $560k/g

 

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