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Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By José Miguel Romero
Just call him "The Franchise."
Regarded as the Seahawks' best player, left tackle Walter Jones is also their franchise player for the third consecutive year after being given that designation by yesterday's deadline.
Jones, 30, recently appeared in his fourth Pro Bowl in seven seasons and has been selected to three consecutive NFL all-star games.
Jones will make $7.08 million next season 120 percent of what he made last year unless he signs a long-term contract.
The team and player can continue to negotiate until March 17. If no deal is reached by then, the sides would wait until July 15 to resume talks because any deal reached in the interim would result in the team losing the franchise designation for the length of the player's new contract.
Last season, Jones' agent, Roosevelt Barnes, and the Seahawks were not able to agree on a multi-year contract, and the tackle missed training camp and the exhibition season before he reported in time for the first game.
That summer, the Seahawks had offered just over $6 million a year for six years, with a signing bonus between $13 million and $14 million. Barnes wanted closer to $8 million a year, with a $16 million signing bonus.
Selected by the Seahawks as the sixth overall pick in the 1997 draft, Jones has started 106 games at left tackle.
The restricted free agents all have three seasons of NFL experience: wide receiver Alex Bannister, fullback Heath Evans, linebacker Orlando Huff, and offensive linemen Dennis Norman and Floyd Womack.
Tendered players can negotiate with other teams until April 16. If a player signs an offer sheet, the Seahawks would have one week to match the offer. If Seattle does not match the offer, the other team would have to include a draft choice equal to the round in which the player was originally selected.
Evans was a third-round pick, Womack and Huff were fourth-round choices, Bannister (a Pro Bowler in 2003) was a fifth-rounder and Norman was a seventh-rounder.
All are likely to be tendered at $628,000, the lowest of the three levels of tenders involving draft-pick compensation. A first-round tender is worth $1.37 million. A tender that would bring first- and third-round picks is worth $1.82 million.
Clayton Lopez, who spent the previous five seasons as a defensive assistant coach for the Seahawks, is expected to become the Oakland Raiders' new defensive-backs coach. The 32-year-old Lopez, a Southern California native, spent the past two seasons assisting Seattle defensive-backs coaches Ken Flajole and Teryl Austin. The three previous years, he was defensive quality control coach.
Former Washington RB Rich Alexis ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine last weekend, the fifth-best time in his group of 12 running-back draft prospects. DT Terry Johnson was second out of his group of 14 in the 40, with a time of 4.69 seconds. CB Roc Alexander ran a 4.35 40, second-fastest in his group, on the final day of workouts yesterday in Indianapolis.
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