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Originally published February 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 23, 2005 at 1:34 PM

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Seahawks

Hasselbeck, Alexander join Jones in Hawks' fold

Seattle signed Matt Hasselbeck, gave the franchise tag to Shaun Alexander, hired Tim Ruskell as president and let go of GM Bob Ferguson on Tuesday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

KIRKLAND — The day before the Seahawks hired Mike Reinfeldt as a salary-cap consultant, he bumped into quarterback Matt Hasselbeck at a local gas station.

Their talk was brief, but it foreshadowed a flurry of activity that culminated yesterday in a full tank at Seahawks headquarters. The day ended with the Seahawks signing Hasselbeck to a long-term deal, applying the franchise tag to Pro Bowl running back Shaun Alexander, hiring Tim Ruskell as president of football operations and letting general manager Bob Ferguson go by way of resignation.

"Everything about (the talk) felt good," Hasselbeck said. "It felt like this is definitely the place I need to be."

With left tackle Walter Jones signed for seven years and set to actually report to training camp, Hasselbeck signed for six years and Alexander franchised, each of the Big Three is coming back.

And after nearly 40 days and 40 nights — not to mention a dozen candidates — the Seahawks have hired a team president just faster than Noah built his famous ark. Reinfeldt could be hired next in a more permanent role.

Same old Seahawks no longer, as one of the most critical offseasons in franchise history appears to be falling — or crawling — into place. There are still 13 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency come March 2, but ensuring the return of the three cornerstones, in Reinfeldt's words, "sent the message that we're going to keep it rolling."

"It's very important," Hasselbeck said, "but it doesn't stop there."

It does start there, though, with Hasselbeck's six-year deal worth roughly $49.4 million with bonuses and incentives. The signing bonus is $16 million, and there is a roster bonus of $1 million due next month, according to his agent, David Dunn.

During the first three years of his contract, Hasselbeck will make about $28.25 million. Next season, he counts $6.2 million toward the cap. Throw in Jones' cap number of $4.9 million and Alexander's franchise tender of $6.3 million when signed, and that's $17.4 million of about $27 million of available cap space the Big Three will consume next season.

Jones used the term "domino effect" when he signed Feb. 16. And, as Hasselbeck noted yesterday, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Pro Bowler is "a big domino."

"It's an honor for me," Hasselbeck said. "I can say this now that I signed the contract, but I really would do this job for free. It's just a dream come true, it really is."

"Matt said he would play for free, but I will also declare today that we weren't going to let Matt go," Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke added. "He is a centerpiece for this franchise, and everyone felt that he is absolutely critical to do what we want to do."


ROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Shaun Alexander (37) and Matt Hasselbeck, sharing a moment before the playoff game against the Rams, were both retained by the Seahawks yesterday, Alexander by way of the "franchise" tag.

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Despite the purple tie and sharp navy suit he sported at team headquarters yesterday, Hasselbeck wore the look of a tired centerpiece. That's because Dunn and Reinfeldt talked between 20 and 30 times last weekend, consummating the deal late Sunday night and revising until the 1 p.m. franchise deadline yesterday.

At different points during the negotiations, Dunn interrupted Reinfeldt in the swimming pool and Reinfeldt called while Dunn's dog was rubbing its muddy paws all over the couch.

The rest of the offseason could be just as messy, depending on how Alexander reacts to the franchise tag and how many free agents the Seahawks sign from inside — and outside — their organization. The top Seahawks left to re-sign are defensive end Chike Okeafor and cornerback Ken Lucas.

The Seahawks called Alexander this morning to tell him about the tag. They got his voice mail.

Reached by phone in Florida yesterday, fullback Heath Evans, Alexander's best friend and one of the Seahawks scheduled for unrestricted free agency, said Alexander knew when the Seahawks signed Jones that he would likely be franchised. Evans joked that Alexander might not go to training camp, which Jones has skipped the past three seasons as the franchise player.

"It's huge," Evans said of locking down the Big Three. "It shows the fans in Seattle that they really are No. 1, that this team won't settle for just making the playoffs, that they're pressing forward for the immediate future. Everyone knows how good those three are. At the beginning of this, I didn't think they could get it done. More power to them for accomplishing it."

The Seahawks have scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. today to announce the hiring of Ruskell, the assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, as their new president of football operations, according to multiple sources.

Ruskell was a key scout during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl run in 2003, and Atlanta general manager Rick McKay spoke highly of him during his hiring a year ago. He interviewed with the Seahawks last week and was traveling to Seattle yesterday.

Ferguson resigned after two seasons as the Seahawks' general manager. In a written statement, he said he will consult with Will Lewis through the April draft.

"The unknowns are gone," Hasselbeck said. "You really feel like you can pour your heart and soul and give everything to this organization. This is your team, this is your home, this is your family. It's like, 'OK, yeah, let's go, let's do it.' "

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com

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