Ensuring that the NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player would not make it onto the free agent market, the Seattle Seahawks late Sunday night reached agreement with star running back Shaun Alexander on an eight-year contract extension.
The deal, which clearly makes Alexander one of the highest-paid running backs in league history, is worth $62 million and includes about $15.1 million in guarantees. It is believed that Alexander's deal is topped only by the contract of San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson among current league backs.
Without the extension, Alexander would have been eligible for free agency, the start of which was delayed until Thursday at 12:01 a.m. ET. Alexander signed the one-year qualifying offer as a franchise player last season and his deal included a stipulation that the Seahawks could not use the restrictive tag again to retain him, fueling the urgency to reach an agreement.
Because of his position -- running backs have the shortest career span among any position -- Alexander might have experienced a somewhat blunted market. But it's still believed he would have had many suitors in the open market. Seattle offered Alexander around the league in trade talks last summer but found no takers.
The decision to keep Alexander last year paid off handsomely, as he rushed for 1,880 yards and a single-season record 27 scores on 370 carries. He also posted 15 catches for 78 yards and one touchdown. For his efforts, Alexander was a runaway winner in the MVP balloting.
A year ago, the relationship between Alexander and the Seahawks was such that most observers felt the 2005 season would be the last with the team. But that relationship improved dramatically in 2005 and keeping Alexander demonstrates again the leadership provided the team by Tim Ruskell, Seattle's president of football operations. Having inherited a difficult situation in 2005, Ruskell has been able to retain key players such as Alexander, left offensive tackle Walter Jones and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
The result was a berth in Super Bowl XL, which the Seahawks lost to the Steelers 21-10.
A former Alabama star, Alexander was the Seahawks' first-round choice in the 2000 draft. He became a starter in his second season and has rushed for 1,000 yards, including three straight seasons of more than 1,400 yards, ever since.
For his career, Alexander, 28, has rushed for 7,817 yards and 89 touchdowns on 1,717 carries. He has 188 receptions for 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns. Alexander has played in 96 games and started 76 of them.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.