SEATTLE (AP) - The Seattle Seahawks have insured themselves against a potential void at linebacker by placing their franchise tag on Leroy Hill to keep him from leaving in free agency.
The team and Hill's agent both say they want a long-term contract to keep the playmaker in Seattle.
Even if the 26-year-old doesn't get a multiyear contract, the franchise-player designation guarantees a raise from his $927,000 base salary in 2008 to $8.3 million this year - the average salary of the top five linebackers in the NFL.
Hill will be free to negotiate with any other team, but the Seahawks can match any offer. They would receive two first-round draft choices if they decide not to match.
Hill was Seattle's third-round draft choice in 2005.
Hill has started 50 of 56 career games. He finished third on the team in 2008 with 81 tackles, and was leading the team in stops through 12 games until a neck strain sidelined him for the final four games. The former Clemson star set a Seattle record for sacks by a rookie linebacker with 7½ in 2005.
Last month, Hill apologized to the team and Seattle's fans after an arrest in Georgia for investigation of misdemeanor marijuana possession.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)