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Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - Page updated at 02:19 p.m

Team set to sign Hasselbeck; Alexander to get franchise tag

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seahawks

Enlarge this photoROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Sources say that the Seahawks have reached an agreement with QB Matt Hasselbeck (left) and will add the franchise tag to RB Shaun Alexander (right).

The Seahawks reached an agreement last night with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on a long-term deal, according to sources close to contract negotiations.

Details of the deal were not immediately known, and Hasselbeck has to sign the contract to make it official. Assuming he does so by 1 p.m. today, the Seahawks will turn their attention to running back Shaun Alexander and designate him as their franchise player.

The team was to hold a news conference today to announce Hasselbeck's signing.

The Seahawks had until 1 p.m. today to name their franchise player. If Hasselbeck had not signed, the team had informed the quarterback that it would have named him the franchise player. Alexander presumably would have become a free agent on March 2.

The team is not required to use its tag and can designate only one player.

Hasselbeck, 29, was believed to be asking for a deal similar to the one New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington got just before the 2004 season. Pennington signed a seven-year extension for $64 million, including $23 million in guaranteed bonuses.

Hasselbeck was a Pro Bowl participant in 2003 when he passed for a franchise-record 3,841 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, he did not have as good a season in 2004, finishing with 3,382 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Still, the consensus had been that Hasselbeck should be retained, via the franchise tag or a new contract, for the sake of offensive continuity and because he has taken the team to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

Hasselbeck's agent, David Dunn, had been in contact with the Seahawks several times since the team hired Mike Reinfeldt, its former lead contract negotiator, as a consultant to work on deals with pending free agents. Talks heated up after left tackle Walter Jones signed a seven-year contract last week, and Dunn and Reinfeldt worked out Hasselbeck's deal last night.

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Alexander has publicly expressed curiosity about playing elsewhere while maintaining that Seattle is where he wants to remain if a deal can be worked out.

With the franchise tag, the Seahawks can still reach a long-term deal with Alexander until March 16. If there is no deal by then, a contract could not be signed until July. The Seahawks also could try to trade Alexander to another team.

Alexander made the Pro Bowl last season and set a team record with 1,696 rushing yards. That total left him 1 yard short of sharing the NFL rushing title.

If the Seahawks had not signed Hasselbeck, they would have had to offer him a franchise tender worth $8.08 million — the average salary of the NFL's five highest-paid quarterbacks.

The number would have severely depleted the estimated $22 million the Seahawks have in salary-cap room. But they won't take as big a hit with him under a long-term contract.

Alexander's tender will be $6.32 million. He isn't likely to sign immediately. He could skip offseason workouts and training camp, returning in time for the season. Alexander also could decide to skip the entire 2005 season.

Meanwhile, in their search for a team president, the Seahawks interviewed Tim Ruskell, the Atlanta Falcons' assistant general manager, last week.

They also have spoken with Jerry Reese, the New York Giants' director of player personnel, according to the New York Daily News.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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