Analysts will sort through the merits of the Seahawks’ pending trade of linebacker Aaron Curry to Oakland. And they will debate the degrees of disappointment that followed his high-pick status.
But it will be hard to find a more apt assessment than the one from defensive tackle Red Bryant: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
And it was clear that Curry, who signed for $34 million guaranteed as the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, never met expectations.
Neither coach Pete Carroll nor general manager John Schneider took questions Wednesday while the deal was pending official league approval.
Raiders executive John Herrera said the trade will be official once the league approves it and Curry passes his physical.
It is not surprising that the deal would be complicated because Curry is scheduled to make roughly $10 million in base salary and bonuses this season. Oakland’s critical shortage of linebackers because of injuries made the Raiders a possible trading partner even for a player whose production had not matched his expense.
The Associated Press reported the Sea-hawks would receive a seventh-round pick in 2012 and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2013 – a stunning devaluation for a player considered one of the safest picks of 2009. But three linebackers taken after Curry in that draft (Washington’s Brian Orakpo, Houston’s Brian Cushing and Green Bay’s Clay Matthews) have already earned Pro Bowl honors.
Curry, from Wake Forest, was the highest draft pick in the tenure of former team president Tim Ruskell. Of the four first-round picks in the Ruskell regime, all have been cut, traded or allowed to leave unsigned, including center Chris Spencer, cornerback Kelly Jennings, defensive end Lawrence Jackson and now Curry.
Seatttle’s first-round pick in 2007 (No. 24 overall) was traded to New England for receiver Deion Branch, who was traded back to the Patriots last season after disappointing production in Seattle.
After the current staff failed to find productive roles for Curry for two seasons, he was benched in Week 3 this season in favor of rookie linebacker K.J. Wright.
Curry was gone and his locker cleaned out before the open-locker session for the media Wednesday. But some players addressed his career, and all mentioned the pressures and high expectations he faced as the fourth player drafted that season.
“I knew him outside of work, and he was a good man,” Bryant said. “I think he had a lot of pressures he had to endure … there’s a lot of expectation on a fourth pick. I can’t speak to how he feels, but just being one of his teammates, I don’t feel like he was probably as ready as he could have been.
“He was getting $34 million guaranteed, and you’re the first linebacker taken in a class of Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo and Brian Cushing. I just hope him well in his new opportunity.”
Veteran linebacker Leroy Hill, one of just nine Sea-hawks players who predates the arrival of Carroll and Schneider in 2010, said Curry came in and said his good-byes to his teammates.
“He said how much he had learned from us and how much he is going to miss us and everything,” Hill said. “I think now he won’t have all those high expectations that he had here, so he can just relax and play ball. I wish him luck and I think everything will work out for him.”
Hill, a 2005 third-round pick, said he could not imagine the pressures on Curry.
“I think there were extra expectations for him,” he said. “The first year (for him) was kind of slow and the second year was a little slower than everybody wanted and that weight just started bearing on him.”
Criticisms of Curry included his lack of instinctual play. In his first season, he was expected to be an edge pass rusher, but rarely came up with big plays. When he was asked to drop into coverage, he appeared to lose track of receivers or drop potential interceptions.
After Curry struggled in the second game this season against Pittsburgh, the staff gave Wright a chance to start in his place. Afterward, Curry said he was at peace with the demotion because of his strong faith, and that he would stay focused on improving as a player.
“He was one of the first guys who took me under his wing,” Wright said of Curry. “He just told me what to expect when I came into the NFL – how to be a pro – he just taught me a whole lot.”
Curry thanked linebackers coach Ken Norton and his fellow linebackers, Wright said. “So, he’s just starting over. I think it’s going to work out good for him. He seems focused.”