Alexander tagged with franchise marker

Updated: February 23, 2005, 6:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said he would play football for free -- after his signature was on a six-year, $47 million contract.

In a day of nonstop action for the organization, the Seahawks on Tuesday re-signed Hasselbeck, named running back Shaun Alexander their franchise player and announced the resignation of general manager Bob Ferguson.

Longtime personnel chief Tim Ruskell, who served the past year as Falcons assistant GM, will be named Seattle's new team president this week, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports. Ruskell agreed to what is believed to be a five-year contract, league sources said.

With Hasselbeck's signing and Alexander's designation, the Seahawks have ensured that their three top offensive players are secured. Last week, offensive tackle Walter Jones signed a seven-year, $52.5 million deal.

"Walter, Matt, Shaun," Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke said. "We're on a roll."

Hasselbeck's signing was the key in retaining Alexander. Had a long-term deal not been completed, Hasselbeck most likely would have been designated the team's franchise player and cost the team about $8 million next season.

Instead, he will make $28.25 million in the first three years of his contract, including a $16 million signing bonus, but only $6.2 million will count against the salary cap next season. The contract was set Sunday night and Hasselbeck signed the deal at team headquarters Tuesday.

"We weren't going to let Matt go," Leiweke said. "This guy had to come back for us to be effective."

The franchise designation for Alexander -- who came within 1 yard of the NFL rushing title last season -- prevents him from becoming a free agent. Alexander had publicly stated his interest in testing the free-agent market.

Alexander will get a one-year contract worth about $6.3 million -- the average of the top five running back contracts in the NFL. The arrangement gives the team until March 16 to try to reach a long-term deal.

"We have a lot of quality people in this organization," Hasselbeck said. "It's exciting to be back with those people."

A Pro Bowl selection in 2003, Hasselbeck, 29, battled injuries in 2004 and his numbers suffered. He threw for 3,382 yards and 22 touchdowns, down from 3,841 yards and 26 TDs in 2003.

Hasselbeck was traded to Seattle from Green Bay for draft picks before the 2001 season. He was Brett Favre's backup for two years with the Packers.

Hasselbeck said leaving the Seahawks crossed his mind only briefly.

"Imagining what it would be like, it was really a disappointing thing to think about, just because of how much work we've put into this here in Seattle," Hasselbeck said.

Hasselbeck's agent, David Dunn, said the deal was a product of "no less than 25 to 30 phone calls" last weekend with Seahawks consultant Mike Reinfeldt and that Tuesday's deadline for naming a franchise player helped in finally finishing the deal.

"I think we were fortunate that we had a group of players that liked to play with each other," Reinfeldt said. "We were fortunate that the team really wanted those players back and those players wanted to be here. That made the task easier."

Alexander rushed for a team-record 1,696 yards and 20 TDs last season, losing the rushing title to Curtis Martin of the New York Jets. Leiweke said he had not yet talked with Alexander about the franchise designation.

After a 3-0 start that seemed to validate preseason forecasts of a Super Bowl run, the Seahawks' 2004 season became unpredictable. Seattle lost several tough games but finished 9-7 and won the weak NFC West.

It was the first division title for Seattle since winning the AFC West in 1999, but the Seahawks lost to St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs.

The offseason has been just as turbulent.

Owner Paul Allen fired Bob Whitsitt, the team's president of football operations, last month, saying he wanted to bring in someone with a deep football background. Seahawks vice president Ted Thompson was hired to be Green Bay's general manager that same day.

Ferguson said Tuesday he was leaving, too.

"As the Seahawks transition to new football leadership, I have decided it is also the right time for me to leave the organization," Ferguson said in a written statement, adding that he would stay on the job through the April draft.

The Seahawks hired Ferguson in February 2003, after he was fired as general manager of the Arizona Cardinals. Previously, coach Mike Holmgren held the dual role of general manager.

Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton and The Associated Press was included in this report.

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