The Seattle Seahawks got a little younger on defense and saved some money on their bottom line, releasing veteran safety Deon Grant on Monday.
Grant, who turned 31 on Sunday, started all 48 games during his three seasons in Seattle, but was due to make $4 million if the Seahawks kept him around in 2010.
And with no salary cap this year, the Seahawks can release Grant without any future salary cap penalty. Other veterans who could face a similar fate as Seattle continues to revamp its roster include wide receiver Deion Branch, set to make $5.47 million next season, and defensive end Patrick Kerney, who will make a base salary of $5.16 million in 2010.
Grant served as one of the team’s defensive captains all three years for the Seahawks, finishing with 224 tackles, eight interceptions and one fumble recovery. Grant also has been one of the iron men in the league, starting 144 consecutive games in his 10 NFL seasons.
But lack of consistent play in Seattle’s defensive backfield has been a concern the past two seasons. And Seattle has a chance to upgrade at safety through the draft with Tennessee’s Eric Berry, Earl Thomas of Texas and USC’s Taylor Mays all projected to go in the first round. Currently, Jordan Babineaux and Jamar Adams are the only safeties on Seattle’s roster. Lawyer Milloy, 36, is an unrestricted free agent.
Grant’s release was one of several moves the team announced Monday as Seattle begins its off-season conditioning program.
The Seahawks re-signed defensive end Darryl Tapp. Tendered by the team at his original, second-round selection, Tapp signed a one-year, $1,176 million deal. The Virginia Tech product was the team’s most consistent pass rusher last season, but finished with only 2.5 sacks. New Seahawks coach Pete Carroll mentioned Tapp as one of the players he wants around in rebuilding the team’s defense.
The Seahawks also signed a receiver, but it was not Brandon Marshall, who was rumored to be headed to Seattle. Instead, St. Louis unrestricted free agent receiver Ruvell Martin signed a one-year contract with Seattle.
The team also announced the signing of New England unrestricted free agent tight end Chris Baker.
Along with cutting Grant, Seattle also released long snapper Matt Overton and running back Tyler Roehl.
Martin, 27, has experience in the West Coast offense from his time in St. Louis and Green Bay. Seahawks general manager John Schneider also is familiar with Martin from their time together with the Packers. Martin played in Green Bay from 2006 to 2008. Martin finished with six receptions for 99 yards in eight games for the Rams last season.
A big target at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Martin has 58 receptions for 848 yards and six touchdowns in four NFL seasons.
Overton apparently lost out to Patrick MacDonald in the competition for long snapper. The Seahawks signed both long snappers a month ago to replace Jeff Robinson, a late-season addition in 2009.
Seattle also may add some depth at quarterback today. The Seahawks, along with the Arizona Cardinals, reportedly filled out offer sheets for San Diego restricted free agent quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, and the Clemson product is expected to make a decision today.
San Diego’s No. 3 quarterback for four seasons, Whitehurst visited both teams last week. Whitehurst likely would have the opportunity to compete for a starting job in Arizona with Cardinals’ holdover Matt Leinart. In Seattle, Whitehurst would give the Seahawks a capable backup to replace Seneca Wallace. White-hurst, 27, could grow into a potential starter once veteran Matt Hasselbeck’s career winds down.
The Chargers tendered Whitehurst at his original third-round selection, so the team that signs Whitehurst to an offer sheet would be required to give San Diego a third-round pick as compensation. The Cardinals have two third-round picks and Seattle does not have a third-round pick in this year’s draft. However, the Seahawks have reportedly reached a trade agreement with San Diego to the team’s liking should Whitehurst accept their offer sheet.
Whitehurst is an unproven commodity, having never thrown a regular-season NFL pass.
Eric Williams: 253-597-8437