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Seahawks give Tatupu new $42 million deal

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- When the Seahawks were trying to draft overlooked Lofa Tatupu three years ago out of Southern California, they couldn't reach him. He was in a beach house -- and out of reception area for the family's cell phones, the only numbers the middle linebacker had given Seattle.

Lofa Tatupu, LB
Seattle Seahawks
2007 Statistics
Games/started: 16/16

Tckls: 109

Ints: 4

Sacks: 1

"Do you want to play football or what?" Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren growled when he finally talked to Tatupu that day.

Now, after three Pro Bowl seasons, the Seahawks have gone from not being able to get a hold of Tatupu to not wanting to ever get rid of him.

Tatupu and the four-time defending NFC West champions agreed on Friday to a $42 million contract extension that could keep him as the leader of Seattle's defense through 2015. It also keeps Tatupu from becoming a free agent after the 2009 season.

"This isn't just Good Friday. It's great Friday," Tatupu told Seahawks president Tim Ruskell upon finalizing the contract.

The deal reworks the final two years on the original contract he signed after being selected in the second round out of USC in 2005, plus six more years worth a potential $42 million.

Fletcher Smith, Tatupu's agent, said the deal includes about $18 million in guaranteed money from 2008 to 2010 and is similar in structure to the $50 million, nine-year contract Chicago Bears star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher singed in 2003, also three years into his career.

Tatupu is due $27 million from 2010-12.

Not bad for the sixth linebacker taken in '05 because he was supposedly too slow and too short. Last season he became the second player in Seahawks' history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three years.

"He has gone way over what anyone could expect from a guy who has played in the league as long as he has," Holmgren said.

Anyone, that is, except Tatupu.

"I think I've exceeded a lot of people's expectations, but not my own," he said with his mother, Linnea, and his girlfriend of six years, Rachel Marcott, sitting a few feet to his right.

The Seahawks were already pressed against their salary cap for 2008. Ruskell said it took Tatupu's defensive mates Patrick Kerney, Deon Grant, Jordan Babineaux and Craig Terrell restructuring their contracts to get the new deal done for the defense's beloved signal caller.

"I owe them a dinner, to say the least," Tatupu said, laughing.

As for the one Seahawk who may most need to restructure his contract to remain with the team, running back Shaun Alexander remains in a wait-and-see mode.

Jim Steiner, agent for the 2005 league MVP who has faded to the cusp of losing his job after two injury filled and ineffective seasons, said Friday he and the Seahawks are continuing to discuss what might be next for the 30-year-old. In the last month Seattle has signed free agent running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett, while Alexander and perennial backup Maurice Morris remain on the roster. Two weeks ago Steiner said he was to meet with the team to see what may be next for his client.

"There have been no decisions as of now," Steiner said by telephone Friday.

If he doesn't accept reduced pay, Seattle could cut Alexander June 1 and spread the $6.9 million salary cap hit over two years. They could waive him before June 1 and swallow all that money this year. Or they could try to trade a runner who's value has never been lower immediately following his least productive season as a starter.

When asked for a best guess on where Alexander might play in 2008, Steiner said, "I'm not into the guessing game."

Ruskell said the team remains in constant talks with Alexander and has been forthright since last season ended on its plans to upgrade what was one of the league's worst running games.

"We are still in the process of going through that," Ruskell said when asked what options the team has with Alexander.

"I don't know that you ever have too many running backs," Ruskell said. "And I don't know that we are in that situation.

"There has been no status change on anybody. We're still filtering through that."

Ruskell did acknowledge the sensitivity of demoting the league MVP and record holder for touchdowns from two seasons ago. Alexander was the franchise's centerpiece when Seattle gave him a $62 million, eight-year contract just 24 months ago.

"We're very cognizant of that. And Shaun has been kept abreast of everything we've done along the way," Ruskell said.

Alexander's current situation is a cold reminder that in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL, Friday's feel-good pronouncements cannot be guaranteed.

"This essentially makes him a Seahawk for life," Ruskell said of a deal that could last past when Tatupu turns 33.

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


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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