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Did Marcel Reece buy rookie Delano Hill’s jersey number?

Updated Seahawks roster shows digits swap as recently signed veteran preempts draft pick

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Late breaking news on the eve of Seattle Seahawks training camp as updated rosters reveal newly-signed fullback Marcel Reece will wear number 44 again for the Seahawks. Rookie safety Delano Hill, who was previously announced in the number 44 shirt and wore it during mini-camp and organized team activities, now has the number 42.

Nod of the head to Brian Nemhauser of Hawkblogger, who brought the switch to my attention Saturday afternoon:

Hawkblogger also provides a handy printable team roster handout for fans visiting the open camp practice sessions to identify some of the new figures, with other notes and details.

Maybe it’s just my desperate thirst for any morsel of excitement on the brink of training camp football, but I am disproportionately curious about this number swap. I previously wrote about Hill’s donning the fo-fo back in May, shortly after the draft. Reece wore number 45 during his nine years with the Oakland Raiders before joining Seattle midway through last season. Although not officially a retired number, I’m guessing 45 was unavailable to honor Kenny Easley, the hard hitting Seahawks safety from the 1980s who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame next week and joined the Seattle Ring of Honor in 2002. Presumably Reece only took 44 because it was the next-nearest number, not for any specific attachment to it (Reece wore number 3 at the University of Washington). Hill, on the other hand, was number 44 in college at Michigan.

Now I don’t know Delano Hill so perhaps he doesn’t particularly care about the number either. But usually athletes are loath to change numbers unless required. Occasionally established veterans or even certain picky rookies will pay big coin to make sure they get their familiar number, or a number otherwise meaningful to them, after joining a new team—with past ransoms anywhere between a few cases of beer to $50,000 according to this Bleacher Report article. In 2005 Ifeanyi Ohalete actually sued Clinton Portis after Portis didn’t keep up with payments for his beloved number 26 when Ohalete got cut from the Washington Redskins roster.

The 10-year veteran Reece has certainly made more money in his career than the 21 year old Hill, and even at the veteran minimum salary he will still make more in 2017 than the third round pick if Reece does end up making the Seahawks squad and plays out the season. But it’s not as if Hill is broke anymore either, after signing for an upfront bonus of more than $725,000 and $2.5 million guaranteed over the next four years.

Money is still money, but the question remains why Reece would care enough to value at any amount a number he had only worn so briefly. Since 42 was apparently available, it’s not like he was going to be stuck with a crooked thing like the number 37 that had belonged to UDFA fullback Algernon Brown before Seattle released him to make room for Reece last week.

Maybe they worked out a different kind of exchange. Or did the Seahawks grant Reece veteran priority over the newcomer Hill? That strikes me as odd considering Reece’s short track record with the club and how in some sense Reece is the new arrival after Hill has been practicing with the team for months and Reece on the street.

It’s also possible Hill gave up the number voluntarily, as a sign of respect. I just don’t see why he would feel so obliged for a player without a more solid connection to the number. If anything Hill has the stronger title to it. I’m sure these mysteries will unravel as we learn soon enough the terms of the swap, if any, and the motivation behind it.

But by then of course we will have real roster struggles to worry about. Enjoy your last night of the offseason—but don’t stay up too late! We get to open the gifts of camp in the morning.