The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions could be competing with the Seattle Seahawks for the services of free agent linebacker David Hawthorne.
Last month, Michael C. Wright of ESPN Chicago identified Hawthorne as an upgrade for the Bears' SAM linebacker spot next to Brian Urlacher. Today, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes that Hawthorne could be an option at middle linebacker should Stephen Tulloch depart via free agency.
Signed by the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2008, Hawthorne earned a roster spot with his big hits and ability to play multiple linebacker positions. Hawthorne replaced an injured Lofa Tatupu at middle linebacker in the 2009 season, leading the team with 116 tackles and recording four sacks.
Hawthorne moved to outside linebacker in 2010, again leading the club with 104 tackles, before moving back to middle linebacker after Tatupu was released in August. Hawthorne missed the season-opener with a knee injury that he played with through season, posting a team-high 115 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions, returning one 77 yards for his NFL touchdown.
In addition to Hawthorne, the Seahawks have a free agent decision to make on Leroy Hill, who rebounded from a lost 2010 season to record 89 tackles and four sacks. Hill has had some off-field issues, but a recent arrest for possession of marijuana was dismissed after Hill passed a drug test.
Unlike the team's previous front office, which spent big money on Julian Peterson, Tatupu and Hill before using the No. 4 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Aaron Curry, current general manager John Schneider is unlikely to break the bank to keep both Hawthorne and Hill, as the team was in nickel defense 40 percent of the time and are high on the coverage and pass-rush ability of 2011 fourth-round pick K.J. Wright, who had 61 tackles, including two sacks and 10 tackles for a loss, making Curry expendable.
Wright can play both outside and middle linebacker spots for the Seahawks, though head coach Pete Carroll would prefer to keep Wright on the outside, which could make Hawthorne a higher priority on the to-do list.
"We've got some free agency issues that we're dealing with right now, and he (Wright) gives us some flexibility, so we'll just have to wait it out," Carroll said at the Combine. "If I had my way I'd let him play where he finished up outside. I think he has the versatility to do that, and it gives us the opportunity to move him around and to pressure him, and to drop him out under coverage and also do some things inside at times with the way we move our defense that you can take advantage of all that.
"We expanded his position this year as the season went on because of what he can do. And we're going to continue to do that."