Seahawks Gambling by Trading Peterson

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIMarch 14, 2009

Now what is Tim Ruskell doing?

Just three years after signing linebacker Julian Peterson to a $54 million contract, the Seahawks president has decided he doesn’t like that deal and has traded the five-time Pro Bowl ‘backer to Detroit for defensive lineman Cory Redding and a fifth-round draft pick.

The swap has a lot of repercussions.

First, it means the Seahawks are now short a starting linebacker, with only Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill returning.

This move also puts the pressure on the Seahawks to get a contract extension with Hill, who is currently tendered for the one-year franchise contract of $8.3 million. Hill has turned down a deal worth $6 million a year, but his leverage just shot through the roof, as his agent surely will emphasize the linebacker’s even greater importance to the Seahawks.

Now Ruskell will have to replace Peterson’s big contract with one of equal size for Hill.

Ruskell saved a net $900,000 this year by making this move, which hardly seems worth it. Peterson was due $6.5 million in salary and was going to count $8.8 million against the salary cap.

With the trade, Peterson still will count $4.6 million. Add Redding’s $3.3 million salary (assuming he did not restructure), and the total cap count this year is $7.9 million.

As for the future, Redding’s salaries average about $3 million less per year than Peterson’s, though Redding is signed for one year longer.

In 2010, Peterson is due $7.5 million, Redding $4.3 million. In 2011, Peterson is due $8 million, Redding $5 million. In 2012, Peterson is scheduled to get $8.5 million, Redding $6 million. And in 2012, Redding is slated to be paid $7 million. He also is due over $5 million in bonuses over the course of his contract.

In the end, the worth of both contracts is the same—about $30 million each.

So why would Ruskell trade a guy who has been to the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons with the team, quickly turning a team strength into a question mark that could be a weakness in 2010 if the team can’t re-sign Hill? Was Peterson really not worth $6.5 million in 2009? And does Ruskell know he just gave Hill a bunch of leverage in contract negotiations?

The bottom line, obviously, is this: Ruskell thinks Hill is more valuable than Peterson. Hill is viewed as an ascending player and, at 26, is four years younger than Peterson.

In return, the Hawks get a 6'4", 295-pound three-technique (pass-rushing) tackle to rotate with free-agent addition Colin Cole and holdovers Brandon Mebane, Craig Terrill, and Red Bryant. Redding also can play defensive end.

This move surely rules out the Hawks drafting Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji with the fourth pick.

In fact, now that they are short at linebacker, the Seahawks have to hope Wake Forest's Aaron Curry falls to them at No. 4—which is very unlikely. Perhaps they are going to try to trade up to get him, or maybe they have plans to draft one of the three eligible USC linebackers—since Ruskell seems to like USC players so much.

If the Hawks stay at No. 4, they likely will be choosing between Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree and Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

Meanwhile, Ruskell recouped the fifth-round pick he had lost in a desperation trade with Denver for receiver Keary Colbert last season.

So the Seahawks now have picks in every round again, with as many as four more seventh-rounders expected as compensatory picks for free agents lost in 2008. That would give the Hawks 11 total selections in this draft.

In the final analysis, Ruskell is taking quite a gamble with this blockbuster. He’s gambling that he can replace Peterson (good luck with that), that he can re-sign Hill, and that Redding and Cole are the answers to the defense’s problems.

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