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Seahawks Hit the Deadline for Deal with Matt Hasselbeck

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If the Seahawks don’t re-sign Matt Hasselbeck by Thursday night’s deadline, they won’t be able to negotiate with him again until there’s a new NFL collective-bargaining agreement. When that will be is anyone’s guess.

The NFL year ends Thursday at 9 p.m. Pacific time, a deadline that is oh-so important.

That’s true nationally as the league’s owners and players union attempt to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement that would avert the league’s first work stoppage since 1987.

It is also true locally. It’s the last day Seattle can negotiate with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck before his contract expires.

Hasselbeck’s future was one of the first questions Pete Carroll was asked when he became Seattle’s coach, and it is one the franchise still must answer moving forward. Hasselbeck has spent 10 years in the pocket as Seattle’s quarterback, and threw four touchdown passes in a defining playoff victory over New Orleans in January. He also heard the home crowd chant the first name of backup Charlie Whitehurst after he was removed from a game in December.

In the two months since the season has ended, Hasselbeck has made it clear he wants to be back while Carroll has unwaveringly expressed the hope of re-signing him. As recently as Saturday in Indianapolis, Seattle’s coach said there was still time for a deal.

“All I’ll say is we’ve been working hard,” Carroll said. “That’s how we felt about it from the start. We’ll continue to work hard. There’s a bit of a deadline coming up, looming. We’re working at stuff.”

But time is running out.

If Seattle does not re-sign Hasselbeck by Thursday’s deadline, it won’t be able to negotiate with him again until there’s a new CBA. When that will be is anyone’s guess.

The Seahawks and Hasselbeck have kept the details of contract negotiations from becoming public. David Dunn, Hasselbeck’s agent, did not return messages this week.

“We’re having great dialogue,” Seahawks GM John Schneider said last Friday. “Matt is Mr. Seattle, and he has done a ton of great things for the city, on and off the field. We’ve had good dialogue.”

The only sign of disagreement is the fact that there is no deal yet.

There’s nothing to preclude Seattle from re-signing Hasselbeck after free agency begins. That’s the path Arizona and Kurt Warner followed in 2009. The Cardinals were coming off a Super Bowl appearance, and Warner went so far as visiting the 49ers as an unrestricted free agent before ultimately re-signing with Arizona.

But letting Hasselbeck enter the free-agent market would constitute a risk with division rivals Arizona and San Francisco among those teams clearly in the market for a starting quarterback.

Seattle has Whitehurst in place as the backup. He was acquired just a year ago from San Diego. Whitehurst started two games, going 1-1 last season, including the victory over St. Louis in the regular-season finale to earn Seattle a playoff spot.

This is the second time the Seahawks have let Hasselbeck play through the end of his contract. The first time also resulted in a last-minute agreement when Hasselbeck signed a six-year, $49.6 million contract in February 2005, the deal announced the very day the team may have been forced to use the franchise tag on Hasselbeck without a long-term deal.

Six years later, Hasselbeck and the Seahawks are nearing another deadline, only this time there are national implications.

Without a new deal, the future becomes very uncertain. That statement is true for the league in general and for the Seahawks and Hasselbeck in particular. That means everyone will be watching what happens before the close of business Thursday.

-Danny O’Neil/Seattle Times

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