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Confronting Walter Jones's Future

A few months removed from the news, I think it's time we take a serious look at Walter Jones and his future with Seattle. There's no new news on the big guy, so unless you want to wheel an MRI to the Bellevue Village QFC, we're going to have to do this from a stance of at least partial ignorance.

Jones turned 35 just about a month ago. He finished his season on IR after undergoing microfracture knee surgery. This is where things get complicated. Mike Holmgren described the surgery as to a non-weight-bearing part of the knee and forecasted Jones would be back by training camp. Will Carroll, presented with less information but with a better understanding of the technique and no conflicts of interest offered:

"Depends where he's having it on the knee. Sounds like they're arguing it will be (in the area of) the lateral (collateral ligament), but all of it's weight-bearing. At his age and with the problems, this is very Hail Mary, but why not?"

That's the range of outcomes: full recovery to involuntary retirement. It's impossible to know the more likely outcome. The most prudent projection is a probably an even split. Jones should be able to return before the start of the season, or maximum a few games in, but will probably not be at fully ability and will face an increased risk of injury from re-injury, injury from decline or a compensation injury.

Jones was the third highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL in 2008. His base salary jumps a little over a million in 2009, but I believe his hefty 16 million dollar signing bonus is paid in full. That means he would count a little more than 2 million less against the cap in 2009, but also that Seattle could cut him without creating any dead money.

Walter Jones is 35, expensive, not capable of taking strong pain killers and fresh off a surgery, no matter the severity, with a limited history of success among NFL linemen. The Seattle Seahawks are fresh off a 4-12 season, with an almost entirely new coaching staff, and question marks at quarterback, guard, center and wide receiver. Jones is an expensive, aged veteran on a team that's rebuilding. Seattle does not need to cut Jones. It's in solid if not strong cap shape. But barring something miraculous, Jones isn't a part of Seattle's next contender, and I think it's important we ask ourselves if a modern sports franchise should pay top dollar for what amounts to a retirement tour.