The Seahawks have officially signed Tyrell Sutton to a future contract. It’s just that the former running back for the Panthers had beaten the team to the formality by announcing the move on Twitter.
Normally, players signed to future contracts are shoulder-shrugging transactions. But after the significance of what came out of last year’s class it has become, well, more significant. That’s because the 11-player class from 2011 included cornerback Brandon Browner, who started all 16 games, returned two of his team-high six interceptions for touchdowns and was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl this season; and Paul McQuistan, who started 10 games at three different positions on the injury-ravaged offensive line.
Sutton, 25, played at Northwestern and then was signed by the Packers after not being selected in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Packers released Sutton on the final cut, with the intention of signing him to their practice squad. But the Panthers swooped in and grabbed him. He was with Carolina until last September, when the Panthers released him.
Although only 5 feet 8, Sutton is an instinctive runner and at 211 pounds has the strength and toughness to run between the tackles. He played in 16 games in two seasons for the Panthers, making his only start at fullback in 2009, and can contribute on special teams as a kickoff returner and coverage man. Playing behind Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, Sutton averaged 5.6 yards on 25 carries. He also caught 18 passes and graded out well in pass protection.
Where Sutton fits with the Seahawks remains to be seen, of course, but Leon Washington is the only returning running back under contract for the 2012 season. Leading rusher Marshawn Lynch, versatile backup Justin Forsett and fullback Michael Robinson are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 13.
Ohio’s “Mr. Football” as a senior at Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron, Sutton ran for 1,476 yards to earn Freshman All-American honors his first season at Northwestern. Ankle (2007) and wrist (2008) injuries cut into his playing time the next two seasons, but he did run for 890 yards and score eight touchdowns before being injured in 2008.
Sutton is the 10th player the Seahawks have signed to a future contract, joining wide receiver Charly Martin, defensive tackle Adrian Taylor and seven players who spent time with the team in 2011 – defensive end Pierre Allen, linebacker Allen Bradford, cornerbacks Coye Francies and Jesse Hoffman, defensive end John Graves, tight end John Nalbone and guard Brent Osborne.