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Tim Ruskell Speaks

Good stuff from Frank Hughes and the Trib. This is exactly the type of content I want from someone with ins and sources. Let's rip right into this point-by-point.

The team is very tight on the $116 million salary cap because of Marcus Trufant's franchise tag. In fact, to make any moves in free agency, there is going to have to be some other movement on the roster in terms of cutting players or restructuring contracts.

We already knew this. Later Frank posted a list of players who could be cut and it's basically a player by player recreation of this post. Now, obviously, having cap room is preferable to not having cap room, but the current class of free agents offers little Seattle can use. Seattle's primary needs: safety, running back, wide receiver, line depth and special teams are all best filled through the draft. Seattle's been big spenders in free agency the past two offseasons, it's belt tightening time.
Ruskell does not anticipate either cutting Shaun Alexander of asking him to restructure his contract. He said they are convinced that Shaun can return to his former exploits, and that the retooling of the running game (Mike Wahle, Mike Solari) will help him get there.

Well...that's not encouraging. Nothing Alexander did last season would imply that he can "return to his former exploits", and if he did rebound at 31, after a brutal workload in 2005 and two very poor seasons since, he'd be a historical outlier. Oh the 24 players ahead of Alexander on the all time rushing list, only John Riggins rebounded from two consecutive down seasons to once again produce at a high level. Alexander hasn't even averaged 2 receptions a game since 2003. I hope, only, that as in 2007 when Ruskell insisted that Seattle was not shopping Darrell Jackson, this is a bluff.
Restricted free agents Leonard Weaver, Lance Laury and David Kirtman were tendered offers, which Ruskell said they would sign. Alvin Pearman was not tendered an offer.

Weaver's Weaver, Laury's a decent special teams player and Kirtman provides the Hawks a more traditional fullback. Not tendering Pearman is a good indication that Seattle will be drafting a running back. With what pick and of what caliber is unknowable.
Ruskell said they do not anticipate Deion Branch missing the entire season. He said he will miss training camp, but based on what the doctors are telling him they fully expect him to be back during the season at some point.

What this really means is that Branch probably suffered a clean tear of the ACL without collateral damage to other structures within the knee. That's very good news. With regards to Branch returning, it depends on how look at it, and I'm not sure I can say which is correct with any sort of certainty. A player's proprioception typically is slow to return after any kind of ligament transplant or reconstruction. An ACL tear should foremost affect a player's agility. Branch's singular best tool is his agility. Now, Branch's exceptional agility might mean that he can still be an effective player at 90%, but it more likely means that should Branch suffer lost agility, he will be worse off than a receiver who can compensate with exceptional speed or height. I still think it's a real stretch to expect much from Branch in 2008.
Negotiations with Josh Brown are ongoing, but Ruskell thinks he is going to test the market. If Brown leaves -- and after speaking with his agent a few days ago it sounds like that is a good possibility -- Ruskell said there are a few free agents they could go after, or a couple guys in the draft that they like.

As much as we all love Browny, it's time to let him find his payday somewhere else. Kickers define fungible. It's funny, fans grouse when a favorite is let go, but want their team to be well run. Well everyone, this is how an NFL franchise is well run.
D.J. Hackett sounds as good as gone. Ruskell said he told Hackett's representatives to see what he is worth on the market, and the Seahawks would see if they could get to that number. But he also said they love the potential of Courtney Taylor, Ben Obomanu, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne. Ruskell was especially effusive about Payne.

We already knew Hacks was gone. I find it a little odd that Logan Payne received "effusive" praise but didn't see a snap last season. Payne might be your typical practice squad standout who wins hearts with hustle. Seattle needs a wide receiver that can produce now. Of that group, Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu are the most pro ready.
Jeff Robinson's career as a long snapper is over. Ruskell said he anticipates their next snapper to be a veteran free agent who is let go by another team. There is a chance that a young guy who is not drafted is found, but more than likely a veteran who is let go will be picked up.

The only pick the Seahawks do not have this year is a fifth-rounder, which was given away for Pearman. Ruskell said he also anticipates getting a compensatory pick, which should be distributed at the end of March, beginning of April. He said he does not know what the compensatory pick will be because the formula is virtually impossible to decipher.

Unless you really expect prescience from your GM, it's not reasonable to critique Ruskell for Pearman's early exit. It's good to see Seattle with a nearly complete draft. I wouldn't be surprised if someone isn't traded away between now and the 26th to acquire an additional pick. Given the Hawks cap space, the draft is Seattle's offseason.
Despite what I wrote on the blog yesterday about Chris Gray's agent saying he likely will back, Ruskell said he does not know what Gray's future is. He said Holmgren needs to have a conversation with Gray to see where he stands on things. So that is still up in the air.

Interesting. Gray doesn't impact the cap much, so I don't see a big push to convince him to retire.
Ruskell said he anticipates taking an offensive tackle in the draft because this draft is so deep. It is not that strong at the interior line positions but the tackle spots are strong, and he said it is his philosophy that you should always draft at least one offensive lineman.

Excellent. Good to see that once again Ruskell and I are on the same page.

...and from the PI

The Seahawks consider Trufant at the top of the next level, and are willing to pay him accordingly - believed to be a six-year deal that would average close to $8 million; or comparable to the first six years of the contract All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey signed with the Denver Broncos in 2004.

"We've been willing to offer up to Champ Bailey," Ruskell said. "They're up in another hemisphere.

Hemisphere? Anyway, I don't mind that Ruskell decides to frame it that way, but referring to a contract as "Champ Bailey money" is ridiculous. A player does not get paid Champ Bailey money, they get paid a contract comparable to the contracts of similar players at a similar position of similar perceived value, at the time of their signing. As Mike Klis of the Denver Post points out,
"Bailey's $9 million average salary represented 11.1 percent of the league's $80.58 million salary cap in 2004, when he signed his new deal. Clements' $10 million average is 9.2 percent of the current $109 million cap."
Meanwhile, Bailey might be asking for more money. It's rhetoric, misdirection, to conflate a contract with the player that signed it. I don't blame Ruskell for the attempt, but it's nonsense. Anyway, Tru might be the new Walter Jones. Perennially franchised, disgruntled but driven and by no means starving.