Tatupu was cut by Seattle on Sunday morning after the Seahawks defensive captain reportedly declined to restructure his contract. A team spokesman confirmed that Tatupu and the organization "mutually parted ways."
He leaves after anchoring the middle of Seattle's defense for most of six seasons, including three Pro Bowl appearances and a major hand in taking the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl appearance following his rookie season in 2005.
It certainly wasn't a simple decision for Seattle coach Pete Carroll. Tatupu played for Carroll at USC and raved about the importance of having Tatupu on his defense from the second he arrived back in the NFL with the Seahawks.
But the 28-year-old Tatupu has struggled with injuries the past few seasons and seen a decline in production. He missed most of 2009 after tearing a pectoral muscle. Last year, he played in all 16 games, but his 88 tackles were the lowest of his career in a full season and he needed surgery on both knees in the offseason.
During the first couple of days of training camp, Tatupu was in a practice jersey, but mostly just a spectator while his teammates went through drills. Tatupu signed a contract extension back in 2008 that locked him up with the Seahawks potentially through the 2015 season and could have paid him up to $42 million. He was scheduled to make $4.35 million in base salary for the 2011 season.
Now Seattle is trying to replace both its offensive and defensive leaders.
David Hawthorne will likely to move back to inside linebacker after shifting outside last season. Hawthorne took Tatupu's place after he was injured in 2009 and managed to lead Seattle in tackles each of the last two seasons. Leroy Hill -- who was re-signed earlier this week to a one-year deal and joins cornerback Marcus Trufant as the only remaining members from Seattle's Super Bowl team -- could get the first shot at outside linebacker.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press