The Seattle Seahawks’ David Hawthorne fired his agent earlier this offseason and he remained the NFL’s only unsigned exclusive-rights free agent as training camps got under way late this week.
The circumstances raised questions about whether the linebacker would report for training camp.
We’ll know for sure when the team practices Saturday morning, but Hawthorne participated in a team meeting Friday. That seems like a good indication Hawthorne will sign and participate in practice.
Hawthorne arguably deserves more than the $470,000 Seattle was required to offer him as an exclusive-rights free agent. He started 11 games last season and he’s the leading candidate to start in Week 1 this season while Leroy Hill serves an NFL suspension. The collective bargaining agreement affords little leverage to exclusive-rights free agents, however.
Exclusive-rights free agents can either re-sign with their teams or not play. If they do not sign, they do not receive credit toward free agency. In Hawthorne’s case, he would return as an exclusive-rights free agent, no closer to becoming a restricted or unrestricted free agent (unless the NFL and its players were to change the rules as part of a new agreement).
The smartest approach for Hawthorne would be to continue improving as a player, endearing himself to a new coaching staff and putting himself in better position to capitalize when he has more leverage.