Tatupu agrees to six-year extension worth more than $40 million

Updated: March 21, 2008, 5:12 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Seattle Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell took some criticism in 2005 for trading up in the second-round for USC middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who was considered slightly undersized and a little slow.

Lofa Tatupu

Tatupu

Three Pro Bowls and one trip to the Super Bowl later, Tatupu has emerged as the leader of the Seahawks' defense. The leadership was rewarded with a six-year contract extension for $42 million which includes more than $18 million in guarantees.

The deal puts him among the league's six highest-paid linebackers. His new contract will take him through the 2015 season.

"This isn't just Good Friday. It's great Friday," Tatupu told Ruskell upon finishing the contract Friday.

"I'm going to end my career with the Seahawks."

Tatupu, 6-foot, 242 pounds, had two years remaining on his rookie contract, but he made three trips to the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons. Tatupu has averaged 112 tackles a season, but those numbers don't fully equate his value.

Tatupu helped to change the focus of the defense with his leadership. He has made his teammates more attentive in preparing by watching more game tape. He calls the defensive signals on the field.

Even in his contract extension, Tatupu showed leadership. He could have demanded more money -- teammate Julian Peterson, a perennial Pro Bowl linebacker, is making $1 million more a season than Tatupu will under his new contract.

But Tatupu knew by taking a little less, it would free up room to help with a contract extension for linebacker LeRoy Hill, who is a free agent after the season. He is also hoping it would help the team reach a long-term deal with cornerback Marcus Trufant, who received the one-year franchise tag in February.

Ruskell drafted Tatupu for his instincts. To get a step ahead in keeping Tatupu, Ruskell signed him to the long-term deal.

Tatupa was the 45th pick in the 2005 draft. Some teams had him rated lower than the second round. Ruskell used two fourth-round picks to move up nine spots in the draft to get him. Seeing Tatupu's success on the field, he wasn't going to let him hit free agency.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer