NFL Free Agency: Leon Washington to be released

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Percy Harvin is already in Seattle today, getting his physical prior to the official announcement of the blockbuster trade between the Seahawks and Vikings. As Jason La Canfora reported yesterday, the Seahawks were looking to reconfigure their cap & budget, and that process has started with Leon Washington. Apparently getting no suitors in the trade market, Leon has been released. The news was first alluded to by Washington himself, but then was reported by Adam Schefter.

The Pro-Bowl kickoff and punt return man was scheduled to make $1.5 million in base salary next season, with a more concerning $2.875M cap hit. If with the Seahawks this year, he would have received a $1 million roster bonus to go along with his guaranteed $375,000 signing bonus proration (so $750,000 will be his 'dead money' cap hit this year, as he had two years left on his contract). Despite his reasonable salary, the total cap hit was too rich for the Seahawks' blood, apparently.

Consider just how little he was used in the offense last year (59 total snaps, 23 carries for 83 yards and one TD), coupled with the diminished importance of a primary kick returner due to the new NFL kickoff rules - Leon only returned the football 27 times in 2012, down from 43 in 2011 and 57 in 2010 - and though he did average 29.0 yards per return, the chips seem to have been stacked against Washington staying in Seattle with his current contract structure.

With Harvin, the Seahawks get an elite kick returner (35+ yards per kickoff last year and an NFL-best five return TDs since 2009) and a player that really should get all of the 59 snaps that Washington saw last year -- mostly in the end of first halves and under two minutes.

Leon, in his own right, is a Pro-Bowl game-changer in the return game, and his value in leadership and class is certainly immeasurable, but the NFL is a business, and thus this news isn't super surprising. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see a cut-and-then-re-sign situation similar to what happened with Marcus Trufant last season either.

On a personal note: We'll really miss you Leon. Good luck to you! As said below in the comments, NFL rules changes and an increasingly amazing Seahawks' defense really diminished your opportunities to do your thing.

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