SEATTLE (Feb. 16, 2005) -- All-Pro offensive tackle Walter Jones may have brought some stability to the Seattle Seahawks' turbulent offseason by signing a seven-year deal.
The team still lacks a president and has a number of key unsigned free agents, but Jones' contract, worth more than $50 million, keeps a potential marquee free agent off the market.
"It's a great feeling," said Jones, 31, who could have become an unrestricted free agent on March 2. "I kind of have a feeling now of where my career is going to end."
Jones played the last three seasons under a series of one-year contracts as Seattle's franchise player.
Jones' agent, Roosevelt Barnes, would not provide specific figures, but said the contract includes a signing bonus of more than $15 million and total bonuses of more than $20 million.
"I knew sooner or later things would open up for me," Jones said. "I just tried to stay patient."
The Seahawks have used their franchise player designation on Jones since 2002, keeping him in a series of one-year contracts that paid him the average of the NFL's highest-paid offensive tackles.
As a sign of his displeasure at the short-term deals, Jones skipped most of the last four Seattle training camps at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. Last season, Jones did not report until a week before the season opener against New Orleans and spent the summer working out at home in Huntsville, Ala., doing the things he believed he would have been doing at training camp: lifting weights, drills and physical conditioning.
So will the camp-skipping come to an end?
"I'm definitely going to be in Cheney," Jones said.
Jones was the sixth overall pick in the 1997 draft and has played his entire career in Seattle. Widely considered the Seahawks' best player, Jones has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times, including the last four seasons.
"Walter has been such a good player," said Seahawks consultant Mike Reinfeldt.
Both Barnes and Jones said Reinfeldt was a key to getting the deal done.
"He's such an integral part in what we do and I hope and think that signing him will give us some momentum to sign the other guys," Reinfeldt added.
Even with Jones' signing, Seattle still has 15 unrestricted free agents, including running back Shaun Alexander and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Seattle might apply the franchise designation to one of them.
Also among the 15 are defensive end Chike Okeafor, cornerback Ken Lucas, tight end Itula Mili, center Robbie Tobeck, guard Chris Gray and special-teams standout Alex Bannister.
And Seattle is still without a team president after Bob Whitsitt was fired on Jan. 14.
Jones hopes he is the start of some key signings for Seattle.
"I hope it can be a domino effect and get those guys signed and get everybody in here working toward next year," Jones said.
Reinfeldt was hired as a consultant by Seahawks owner Paul Allen on Feb. 3. Reinfeldt worked as the Seahawks' contract negotiator, but left the team before the 2004 season.
"Mike was the key to this whole thing," Barnes said. "It just seemed that Mike had a lot of freedom to go ahead and we were able to talk about Walter as a player and what he means to the organization."
Barnes spent last week with Jones at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii discussing the deal. Without Reinfeldt's work, Jones said he would have tested the free agent market if the Seahawks did not franchise him yet again.
"Once they brought Mike Reinfeldt in I knew it would go fast, but I didn't know it would go this fast," Jones said. "I'm very relieved it got done."