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Friday, March 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks

Seahawks find a new starter for offensive line

Seattle Times staff reporter

KIRKLAND — The Seahawks might have found their replacement for the departed Steve Hutchinson, and he's a guy with Super Bowl credentials.

If nothing else, Tom Ashworth figures to be a starter on Seattle's offensive line.

Ashworth, formerly with the New England Patriots, agreed Thursday to sign a five-year, $13 million contract.

Ashworth, 28, has been a right tackle for most of his four-year NFL career, blocking for quarterback Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowl wins in 2003 and 2004. He made a free-agent visit to Seahawks headquarters earlier this week, and his agent said he came away excited, especially about his meeting with offensive-line coach Bill Laveroni.

The Seahawks' philosophy of employing athletic offensive linemen who are often put on the move fits well with Ashworth, who was a tight end briefly at Colorado. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Ashworth could slide to left guard, where Hutchinson played the past five seasons before signing with the Minnesota Vikings. That would allow Seattle to keep Sean Locklear at right tackle, where he started every game last season.

Locklear also could move inside to keep Ashworth at his typical spot.

Ashworth was expected to sign his contract today. He'll receive $4.5 million this year.

One more hurdle for Hamlin

Free safety Ken Hamlin has been cleared to play football by his physician. Hamlin suffered severe injuries in a fight outside a downtown Seattle nightclub last October. But the Seahawks aren't saying yet whether Hamlin will play.

Lawrence Temple, Hamlin's agent, said his client has been cleared to play by his personal physician, but Temple said he did not know whether the Seahawks' doctors have given Hamlin the go-ahead to resume playing.

Without that clearance, Hamlin still is officially out of action. Hamlin was under the supervision of Dr. Stan Herring, one of the Seahawks' doctors, after his injuries.

Team medical staff had not made a decision on Hamlin as of the NFL scouting combine last month. The team did not comment Thursday on Hamlin's state of readiness.

The football staff is apparently not completely convinced, either, as the Seahawks had free agent Lance Schulters in for a visit that concluded Thursday. The Seahawks are already down a safety after losing Marquand Manuel to the Green Bay Packers earlier this month.

Hamlin has been working out since before the season ended.

Notes

• Tight end Chris Baker, a former New York Jet, concluded his visit with the Seahawks on Thursday. The team is seeking a replacement for Ryan Hannam, who signed with the Cowboys last week. Baker, 6-3 and 258 pounds, started eight games last season and caught 18 passes for 269 yards. Baker, 26, has four years of NFL experience.

• Seattle also met with TE Will Heller on Wednesday. Heller (6-6, 265) spent his first three pro seasons in Tampa Bay, where he was a backup.

• The Seahawks announced that DE Joe Tafoya has signed his contract to return to the team for the 2006 season.

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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