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Originally published March 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 8, 2008 at 4:17 PM

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Julius Jones boosts Hawks backfield

The Seahawks agreed to terms with free-agent running back Julius Jones on Friday night, according to a report on the NFL Web site. It is Seattle's latest...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Jones' numbers

In four seasons with the Cowboys:

885

Carries

3,484

Yards rushing

18

Touchdowns

The Seahawks agreed to terms with free-agent running back Julius Jones on Friday night, according to a report on the NFL Web site.

It is Seattle's latest step in rebuilding its running game. It is also the most dramatic. Not just because of what the 26-year-old Jones brings to the Seahawks, but because of the question his arrival raises. Will Shaun Alexander still be part of this rebuilt backfield?

Jones' addition does not require Alexander's subtraction. There's room for both under the Seahawks' salary-cap configuration. Jones is the second running back signed by Seattle this week, showing the Seahawks' emphasis on rebuilding their running game after last season's struggles.

The Seahawks replaced their offensive-line coach, signed former Pro Bowl guard Mike Wahle after he was released by Carolina and this week signed T.J. Duckett, who's big enough to play some fullback, too. Now they are poised to add Jones, who rushed for 1,084 yards in 2006 but whose opportunities and rushing average declined last season.

Duckett is a short-yardage specialist, a big body brought in to address the team's third-and-short failings these past two seasons. Jones likely will be in the running for a starting job.

The agreement between the Seahawks and Jones was first reported by the NFL Network's Adam Schefter. Jones' agent did not return phone messages Friday, and the Seahawks' policy is to not comment before contracts are signed and approved. ESPN.com reported the deal is for four years and will average about $3 million per season.

Jones was a second-round draft choice from Notre Dame in 2004 and played the past four seasons in Dallas. His carries declined in 2007 as Marion Barber stepped into a bigger role in the Cowboys' backfield.

Jones' best game as a pro was in Seattle in 2004, when he rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns in a Monday night game.

Jones visited Detroit and Tennessee earlier in the week before arriving in Seattle on Thursday for a two-day visit.

The question is what happens now to Alexander, the franchise's all-time leading rusher. A message to one of Alexander's representatives was not returned Friday. In the five seasons from 2001 to 2005, Alexander averaged 1,501 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 806 yards the past two seasons and totaled 11 touchdowns.

He is 30 years old and never missed a game his first six seasons in the league. He missed nine games because of injury the past two years.

Alexander is scheduled to make $4.5 million next season. If the team released him, it would not be responsible for his salary, but it would still have to account for three-fifths of his 2006 signing bonus ($6.9 million of the $11.5 million total) under the league's salary cap. Seattle could choose to spread that salary-cap hit over two seasons.

Coach Mike Holmgren and president Tim Ruskell previously said there were no plans to cut Alexander.

Darby to Detroit

Detroit signed defensive tackle Chuck Darby on Friday, agreeing to terms on a three-year contract.

Darby played the past three years for Seattle, and he was part of the defensive makeover that helped the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl in 2005. He started 28 of the Seahawks' 32 games his first two seasons with the team. Darby, 32, had surgery after a knee injury in last season's sixth game.

The Seahawks still have defensive tackles Craig Terrill, Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane and Marcus Tubbs under contract.

Notes

• DL Ellis Wyms visited Minnesota and Tennessee this week.

• LB Caleb Miller is scheduled to visit the Seahawks, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Miller played for the Bengals last season.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or seattletimes.com">doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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