Seahawks on hook to pay Tom Johnson after release to promote safety who didn’t play

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In August, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll sung the praises of free agent signing Tom Johnson as he assimilated into Seattle’s defense. And yet, Seattle released him on Saturday and watched him decide to re-sign with the Minnesota Vikings for the rest of the season on Tuesday.

“Because of what happened with the numbers, we just, we had to do something to make a move and we had to figure out which is the best way for us and over the long haul of this thing,” Carroll said on Saturday. “Tom did a great job for us. We love him. We hated to have to separate like that. He’s a good ballplayer.”

Why Seattle felt like they had to make that move is the curious part.

The Seahawks released Johnson to promote Shalom Luani from the practice squad. Carroll was correct in that Seattle’s numbers were thin due to injuries. Six of their seven inactive players were out with injuries that forced usual special teams players into bigger roles in the regular rotations. However, Luani didn’t play a single play against the Bears. He and backup quarterback Brett Hundley were the only two Seahawks not to see the field that were in uniform.

Johnson started for Seattle throughout the preseason and earned the starting job in Denver last week.

“I wish we found him six or seven years ago,” Carroll said of Johnson in August. “He’s one of our guys. He’s got the chip on his shoulder and he shows it day in and day out by the way he approaches his work. … He’s fantastic and we love the fact that he’s in that room (and) got a lot of young guys with him. He’s got a fantastic influence on those guys.”

Even if you want to make the argument that Seattle needed Luani up on the roster for depth at safety with Delano Hill inactive, they could have created the roster spot in different ways than releasing their starting defensive tackle. Maybe Seattle thought by releasing a veteran who didn’t have to go through waivers, they could bring Johnson back this week without any teams luring him away. If that was the case, they guessed incorrectly.

Being a veteran on the opening week roster guaranteed his full season salary from the Seahawks. Releasing him on Saturday leaves them on the hook for the rest of his $950,000 base salary from the season in addition to the $900,000 signing bonus they gave him in March. Additionally, he can draw a new salary from the Vikings as well that may offset some of Seattle’s commitment.

With Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Tre Flowers all potentially able to return this week, Seattle’s roster crunch appears to have been short-lived. Deciding to release a starter for a one-week band-aid roster fix when you’re on the hook for the contract would seem to be less than ideal.