Report: Seahawks place franchise tag on Trufant

Updated: February 21, 2008, 8:03 PM ET
Associated Press

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks officially made their initial move to keep Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant from free agency by designating him as their franchise player for 2008 on Thursday.

The team announced that Trufant is still free to negotiate with any other team when free agency begins March 1. That means Seattle used the non-exclusive franchise tag, which allows the Seahawks to match any offer or receive two first-round draft choices if they decide not to match.

Should he decide to sign the tender offer, Trufant would be guaranteed $9,465,000 for 2008, currently the average of the top five salaries for cornerbacks in the league. He could still sign a long-term contract with the Seahawks by July.

Seahawks president and general manager Tim Ruskell expects Trufant will sign the tender -- or will eventually sign a multiyear deal to stay with the hometown team that drafted the native of Tacoma, Wash., 11th overall in 2003 out of Washington State.

"We are excited that Marcus will remain a Seahawk," Ruskell said. "We will continue to talk with his representative in hopes of securing a long-term deal, which is our goal."

Trufant is coming off his best NFL season, with eight interceptions and his first Pro Bowl appearance. The day after the Seahawks lost in the NFC divisional playoffs at Green Bay Jan. 12, Trufant sounded as if he would like to negotiate with other teams. He said he was "a little curious" o test the free-agent market for the first time.

"I know the organization loves me," Trufant said then. "But that only goes so far. There's always a business side of it. We may want things to be done exactly how we want them to be done, but it can't always be that way.

"I really don't have control over a lot of things ... so I just got to wait around and see what happens."

Trufant's agent, Mike Sullivan, did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone Thursday seeking word on what Trufant's next move may be.

Seattle used its franchise tag for last year on kicker Josh Brown, a valuable scorer whom the team would also love to keep for 2008. Brown's agent, Rob Roche, said Brown is now on the verge of leaving through unrestricted free agency that begins March 1.

"Obviously, he has an opportunity at this point based on them franchising Trufant," Roche said in a telephone interview upon arriving in Indianapolis for the NFL rookie combine.

He said he has had recent negotiations with Seattle but nothing that makes a long-term agreement for Brown imminent.

"We probably, most likely, will still talk to the Seahawks between now and then," Roche said of next weekend.

The Seahawks have two other pending, unrestricted free agents in right tackle Sean Locklear and wide receiver D.J. Hackett.

The team is now more likely to lose one or perhaps all three to free agency, given its lack of room under the salary cap. The Seahawks are committing $9.5 million to Trufant following the new contract believed to be for about $3 million per year they recently gave to Mike Wahle to be their starting left guard.

As expected, the Seahawks chose to use the franchise designation on Trufant instead of Brown or Locklear. It's the easier route. Trufant can command millions more in a multiyear deal than can the others, because of his recent excellence at what is seen as the second-toughest position, next to quarterback. Quarterback is the only position with a richer average among top five salaries than cornerback.

The price tag for free-agent cornerbacks went up when the San Francisco 49ers signed Nate Clements to an $80 million, eight-year contract last offseason.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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