Hill’s arrest likely will cost him a big contract

Some early analysis holds that a recent arrest of linebacker Leroy Hill signals the end of his career with the Seattle Seahawks.I wonder if it won’t just make it cheaper to keep him.And if he isn’t a Seahawk in the fall, it might be because the team is committed to getting younger and faster rather than because he was arrested in a residence where a roach and marijuana residue were discovered.At the least, Hill’s situation creates another roster variable as the Seahawks bear down on a March 5 deadline for franchise-designation and the March 13 opening of free agency.Far more important than Hill’s status are negotiations with running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant – both free agents – the acquisition of a quarterback for 2012 and beyond, and a dedicated search to find somebody inclined to rush an opposing quarterback.If a Lynch deal isn’t done by Monday, they’ll likely franchise him, since coach Pete Carroll has all but guaranteed he’ll be on the roster this fall. Bryant, meanwhile, has made it clear he wants to stay in Seattle with the Seahawks.Of course, that’s what Hill has said, too. His market as a free agent looked to be trending upward as the 29-year-old started every game and ranked fourth on the team with 89 tackles last season.But this is Hill’s third legal issue since 2009, being suspended a game after the incident in which he was found asleep at an Atlanta stoplight with dope in his car. And in 2010, he was fined by the NFL for a personal-conduct violation following a domestic-abuse charge that was settled before reaching trial.If there is substance to the latest incident, he could face another suspension, which would cost him a great deal in the free-agent market aside from game checks.Hill was one of the team’s success stories in 2011, having come back from a season-ending Achilles injury in 2010. The precarious nature of his career had been impressed upon him in a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell. And it seemed as if the message struck home.“I’ll just stay healthy and keep my nose clean and everything should be all right,” Hill said at the start of last training camp. And it was all right.I had a private chat with him at the end of the season, when players cleaned out their lockers and you can go off the record a little. Media folks spend a lot of time with these guys, and you come to appreciate those who are accommodating, considerate and professional.Hill is always frank and straightforward and offered a veteran’s insight. I thanked him for his cooperation, and congratulated him for bringing his career back from the brink.He said he had come to understand how important it was to get everything behind him and stay focused on the job.Details of the recent arrest are pending, and the degree of Hill’s involvement appear open to dispute.A debate on the criminality of marijuana use in a private residence is fair in another platform, but here we’ll just suggest that extra caution would be prudent for somebody who already has had offenses, and whose professional future depends on staying out of compromising circumstances.So, what does this mean for Hill as a prospective employee?Teams are unlikely to heavily invest in an aging linebacker who could face a looming suspension. So bidding in the market might make him inexpensive to keep.The Seahawks are already lean at linebacker, with leading tackler David Hawthorne a free agent whose longevity and durability can be fairly questioned.Depending on the evidence in Hill’s case, I don’t think the current Seahawk front office is going to be too judgmental about a possession charge.

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