BY Doug Farrar 11:17AM 03/01/2011

Seahawks re-sign Washington to four-year deal

Seahawks lock up special teams ace who saved Seattle’s season with his ambitious returns.

Leon Washington eludes another defender / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest)

The Seattle Seahawks still have many holes to fill in the draft and in free agency (if there is free agency this season), but they’ve locked up the man who may have been their best player in 2010 … and we’re not talking about a new deal for Matt Hasselbeck.

Seattle reached a four-year agreement with running back/kick returner Leon Washington, according to multiple reports. Traded on April 24th, 2010, by the New York Jets for a fifth-round Seattle pick, Washington was the point man for a Seahawks special teams unit that proved to be one of the NFL’s best. The deal is said to total $12.5 million, with an undisclosed guaranteed amount, and could reach $16 million with incentives.

Washington wouldn’t have been on the block at all but for the horrific compound leg fracture he suffered in the 2009 season. That injury led to a metal rod in his leg and a long rehab process, but the Seahawks saw something they could work with.

It was a winning gamble, but even Pete Carroll and John Schneider could not have imagined what they’d get from the Florida State alum. In his third regular-season game with the Seahawks, Washington sliced up the San Diego Chargers’ special teams for two kick return touchdowns, and came very close to a third. His 63.3 yards-per-return average in that game was the fourth-highest in NFL history and the best of the post-merger era.

Washington finished with 1,461 return yards and three touchdowns on 57 kickoffs (a 25.6-yard average), and 249 yards on 22 punt returns (an 11.3-yard average). Those kick return yards comprised the highest total in Washington’s career, and he’d topped 1,000 yards in two other seasons (2007 and 2008).

With Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Michael Robinson taking up the backfield, Washington didn’t get too many carries – he ran the ball just 27 times for 100 yards. But it can be argued that he was Seattle’s most valuable player; the Seahawks don’t make the playoffs without that Chargers game, and Carroll said repeatedly during the season that the special teams was the thing that kept the Seahawks in the season throughout.

The deal puts Washington on the roster through age 32, and, if he stays healthy, gives the team a very dangerous return option and a chance at field position advantage in every single game.