The Seattle Seahawks’ brass finally ran out of patience with linebacker Aaron Curry.
The Wake Forest product and the No. 4 overall pick in the draft three years ago confirmed that his role has changed, and he has been demoted to second team on the depth chart at outside linebacker, with rookie K.J. Wright working with the first unit during practice this week.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Curry said. “But it is what it is. … Everything happens for a reason. There’s a purpose behind everything, and I’ll find it and learn from it and take off running."
The move comes after Curry, 25, struggled against Pittsburgh last week, dropping an interception in pass coverage with his team down 7-0 in the second quarter that potentially could have been returned for a touchdown.
Curry said it’s the first time that he can remember in his football playing career that he’s been benched because of performance. Curry’s junior year at Wake Forest in a game against Navy, he did not start the first quarter as a disciplinary measure for missing class.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens on Sunday,” he said. “All questions will be answered on Sunday really.
“It’s a special situation,” he added. “But it is what it is. All I can do is show up and be me every day.”
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll consistently praised and supported Curry from the first day he took over as the team’s head coach in January of last year. When he took the job, Carroll said one of his first priorities was to find a way to best use the raw athletic talents of the 6-2, 255-pound linebacker.
Considered by many draft analysts as the safest player in the 2009 draft, Curry’s athleticism has never translated to consistent production on the football field, as he often found himself out of position and did not create explosive plays defensively.
For the most part Curry’s been healthy, playing in 32 of 34 possible games, including 30 starts. And he’s been a model citizen off the field. But Curry’s production has not lived up to his lofty draft status. Through two games, Curry is tied for third on the team in tackles with 11. Curry has 5.5 sacks and just one interception in the playoffs last season against Chicago to his credit in two-plus seasons. He finished fifth overall on the team in total tackles with 73 in 2010.
While Curry has floundered, other linebackers taken after him in his same draft class have flourished. Washington’s Brian Orakpo (selected No. 13), Houston’s Brian Cushing (No. 15) and Green Bay’s Clay Mathews (No. 26) all have a Pro Bowl to their credit in their young careers.
Earlier this season during training camp the Seahawks restructured Curry’s contract, making it easier to part ways with the underperforming linebacker at season’s end if they choose.
Curry agreed to cut his rookie deal from six to four years.
In return for giving up $5 million in guaranteed salary Curry’s due to make in 2012, he can become a free agent at the end of that season – two years earlier at the age of 27.
By season’s end, Curry will have earned $28.25 million in guaranteed money over 2 ½ years of the six-year, $60 million deal he originally signed with Seattle’s previous regime in August 2009.
Because Curry’s salary is not guaranteed in 2012, the Seahawks could release him in February without any financial obligation. The restructured deal also makes it easier to for Seattle to move Curry in a trade.
The Seahawks selected Wright in the fourth round of this year’s draft. At 6-4, 246 pounds, Seattle drafted Wright as depth behind Curry. But linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. placed Wright at middle linebacker behind David Hawthorne because of his instincts and he liked his length inside.
Further, The Seahawks felt learning that position would speed up Wright’s development because he would have to learn all of the defensive calls.
Wright started the first game of the year against San Francisco at middle linebacker because Hawthorne had a knee issue, and Carroll has raved about his performance so far this season.
The Seahawks attempted to make Curry more of a pass rusher his first two years in the league because of his natural speed of the edge. But they returned Curry to his more traditional role of an outside linebacker that played back in pass coverage, which Curry seemed to feel more comfortable with.
But ultimately, the Seahawks believe that Wright is a better fit for what they want to do scheme-wise at this time.