The Profound Misuse of Leroy Hill

We’ve been mightily disappointed in Leroy Hill. We have a right to be — he’s proven himself somewhat irresponsible, bordering on stupid, despite being given a chance to prove himself worthy of a fat contract. This morning, Mike Sando breaks the news that Leroy Hill’s contract has been renegotiated, making this a contract year for Mr.  Hill and cutting his pay to about 1/3 of its previous amount. Both sides win a little in this deal, in the same sense that both sides won in the Cory Redding deal last year. We paid him what he was worth, and he got to go off the next year and sign with another team. 

In Seattle, we place a very high value on the perceived character of our players. Many people find Houshmandzadeh repugnant. Many thought we should have cut Rocky Bernard at the first sniff of domestic abuse. Many still think we should have hung Jerramy Stevens by the 12th Man flagpole until all his ills drained out of him. I’m not saying any of those are right or wrong, it’s just how a lot of Seattle fans feel. We take pride in being “nice guys” because we can’t always take pride in being “winners.” As a result, Leroy Hill is getting hated on — including by yours truly — and, had this renegotation not occurred, I think it is clear that Mr. Hill would indeed have been cut.

But he wasn’t. He’s on the team, and he’s going to remain there for the next year, barring something new happening. And now, on a team that has serious, seeerrrrious questions about pass rush ability, we just locked ourselves into a solid run-stopping LB.

Or did we?

In Hill’s rookie campaign, the linebacker out of Clemson started 9 games, played in 15, and notched 7.5 sacks. Good for third best on a team that came close to leading the league in sacks (behind Bryce Fisher and Rocky Bernard). In the four seasons since, Hill has a combined 7.0 sacks. In his rookie season, Hill showed a great burst and a great ability both to use leverage and to dodge defenders — he routinely rushed the passer with his body at an angle, not unlike Nick Reed and completely unlike Aaron Curry. And then, after an incredibly successful rookie year, the Seahawks resolved not to use him in that manner any more.

Why? Was there a real reason to it that I’m not seeing? This is one of my biggest pet peeves since 2006 and it continues to perplex me. Now, more than ever, the Seahawks need help with the pass rush. Here’s hoping that Pete & co. can find a more effective way to use Leroy Hill — one of the most physically talented and intimidating members of our defense. I know we love Hawthorne around these parts, but Hill has a lower floor and possibly higher ceiling (at least from a pass rush perspective) than Hawthorne. Here’s hoping to a year of redemption for Mr. Hill.