Things could be going better for Seattle Seahawks free agent David Hawthorne. As Anwar Richardson of MLive.com reports, the TCU product was headed to Detroit for a visit with the Lions on Tuesday.
Problem is, Detroit re-signed middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a five-year deal while Hawthorne was still on the plane, meaning his trip to Motown was for not, and he had to turnaround and get on a plane headed for home the next morning.
Believe me when I say you don’t want to have to fly to Detroit just to get a free bag of peanuts and watch Inception for the 15th time while sitting in an uncomfortable middle seat.
But Hawthorne’s bad road trip highlights a fact in this year’s free agency, a soft linebacker market with a lot of guys of similar ability available and teams unwilling to pony up for their services.
Philadelphia’s trade for Houston’s DeMeco Ryans is a prime example. The Eagles pretty much gave up just a fourth rounder for a Pro Bowl linebacker – the same compensation the Jets gave up for quarterback Tim Tebow.
Seattle gave up a third rounder for Charlie Whitehurst two years ago.
Add to that the fact that this year’s draft is considered deep at linebacker, along with the idea that the linebacker position is undervalued because teams believe they can find plug-and-play guys like K.J. Wright for a reduced price later in the draft, and you understand why Hawthorne has yet to sign a deal two weeks into free agency.
Here’s a couple things Hawthorne’s camp likely is considering as they seek a fair deal in free agency.
Carolina’s Jon Beason set the bar high for middle linebackers last year by signing a six-year, $51.338 million deal, including $25 million guaranteed.
Hawthorne’s numbers compare favorably to Beason’s, although the University of Miami product was a first-round pick and is a three-time Pro Bowler.
D’Qwell Jackson inking a five-year, $42.5 million deal to stay in Cleveland before free agency also adds fuel to Hawthorne’s belief of where his value should be on the market. And Jackson is two years older than Hawthorne, and missed the entire 2010 season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Hawthorne’s proved durable and played hurt, missing one game the last three years and limping through last season with a sprained knee.
Hawthorne is one of the most prepared players on defense. He’s proved versatile, starting 16 games at weak side outside linebacker in 2010.
According to Brian McIntyre of Football Outsiders, Hawthorne played 315 of Seattle’s 363 snaps in nickel situations, and eight out of 10 in Bandit. Hawthorne played in 89.9 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps last year, and that includes missing the opening game at San Francisco.
Also, Hawthorne’s one of the team leaders and has outplayed his contract.
While leading the team in tackles the past three seasons, Hawthorne’s earned just $2.6 million in total compensation in his four years in Seattle.
He’s seen Seattle re-sign players like Red Bryant, Marshawn Lynch and Breno Giacomini. And this will likely be his biggest deal as a pro, so it’s fair to say Hawthorne’s looking for a little payback for being a good soldier in Seattle.
But the Seahawks are looking at Hawthorne’s value in terms of what he can do for them moving forward.
Seattle has some leverage because they can play K.J. Wright at middle linebacker at a much reduced salary compared to what Hawthorne will command. And Wright likely would be the middle linebacker in nickel situations moving forward.
And the Seahawks also have this year’s deep pool of talent at linebacker to use as leverage in Hawthorne’s contract negotiations.
Denver linebacker Joe Mays’ contract might be the one Seattle points to when looking for Hawthorne’s value. Mays signed a three-year, $12 million deal to stay with the Broncos, $4 million of which was guaranteed in the first year of the contract.