Saturday, May 2, 2009

Did Ruskell Do Hill a Favor?

by: Michael Steffes

Mike Florio of makes the argument that Tim Ruskell did Leroy Hill a favor by putting the Seahawks' original offer back on the table. Not only did he do Leroy a favor, but he also bailed out Todd France. At least, that is the premise of Florio's article.

As Florio puts it,

Meanwhile, Seahawks president Tim Ruskell privately is winning praise for not sticking it to Hill by reducing the offer. As we understand it, Hill had nothing else even remotely close to his deal with the Seahawks. There’s a belief in some circles that, based on the market for his services, Hill might have been required to take a deal in the range of $4 million per year if the Seahawks hadn’t opted to make their prior offer available....At a time when Hill might be inclined to piss and/or moan about the rescinded franchise tag, here’s hoping Hill realizes that the Seahawks did him a big favor after the fact.
First of all, it is already clear that Hill is not "pissing and moaning" about having the tag removed. He seems genuinely pleased that, in the end, a deal with the Seahawks got worked out. If he was pissed, he could have chosen to sign somewhere for less. That didn't happen.


Let's look at this deal, and what PFT is saying about it for a minute. We have no assurances that Hill couldn't have done better than $4 million, but if that is the case then the logical question is why the Hawks went back to their $6 mil per year offer. Should they have played hardball?

My guess is that they didn't play hardball for a couple of reasons, the first being that they wanted Leroy back. He is one of Ruskell's biggest success stories in his time in Seattle, and the goal has always been to keep him here. Else, the offseason arrest probably would have allowed him to hit the free agent market in March. Plus, Leroy is a impact player on this defense and would be harder to replace than maybe the team would have you believe.

The second reason is something I touched on yesterday, and it is something that Tim Ruskell doesn't get enough credit for. Ruskell and his top guys put a lot of work into figuring out the value of a player to the Seahawks. They attach this value to the player and then are fairly rigid in sticking to that value in their negotiations. Remember last year, Marcus Trufant wanted to be paid as a top-tier corner. The team was open about feeling that he was more of a second-tier talent and should be paid as such. In the end there was a compromise, but the deal was closer to what the second group of corners are paid.

With Hill, the team appears to have taken the same approach. They tagged him, knowing he would be overpaid at $8.3 million per year, then offered him a long term deal for 6 years, $36 million. Leroy was waiting for more. With the tag applied, there was no rush, as Hill had the $8.3 to fall back on -- that is, until the tag was removed.

What should be praised here is not that Ruskell did Hill a favor, but that Ruskell stuck to his valuation of Hill. The moves made by the Seahawks in this situation devalued Leroy on the open market. It would have been very easy for the team to use the loss of leverage against Hill. Instead, it would appear that Ruskell stuck to his value once again. If Hill was worth 6 years and $36 million to the team last week, then he was still worth that amount this week too. The team's stance didn't change. What happened was that the change in situation caused Hill to re-evaluate the situation.

In a perfect world, a situation like this was what the transition tag was made for. They could have let Hill find out if he had more value in the open market back in March. However, the transition tag has become a worthless tool. The team tried this approach before and got burned.

There's no doubt that Ruskell is as stubborn as they come, but when it comes to fielding a team of 53 guys, all under a hard salary cap, it benefits the Seahawks to have a guy who sticks to his guns. END