The Seattle Seahawks were able to rush for the third-most yards in NFL history last season without having two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger for 10 of their 16 regular-season games.
And that probably rendered Unger expendable in Tuesday’s trade that brought him and a first-round draft pick to the New Orleans Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round choice.
“We would like to thank Max for his leadership and the role he has played in helping establish our current championship culture,” Seahawks Executive VP/General Manager John Schneider said in a news release.
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin tweeted, “this one is a hard pill to swallow. A great player, a great teammate and a great man. Thank you Max Unger for everything!”
Unger, a six-year veteran who was Seattle’s 2009 second-round pick out of Oregon, where he was a teammate of Saints safety Jairus Byrd, Unger was one of just three players left from the pre-Pete Carroll era in Seattle.
A first-team All-Pro in 2012, Unger signed a five-year, $25.8 million contract extension before that season, which made him one of the highest-paid centers in the NFL.
He is generally regarded as one of the top three players at his position in the league. But this season he suffered a severe ankle injury that sidelined him for the majority of the regular season, including a victory over Arizona when the Seahawks gained a franchise-record 596 yards.
Unger did return in time to start all three of Seattle’s postseason games — including Super Bowl XLIX, when the Seahawks chose to pass from the 1-yard line in the final minute instead of running Marshawn Lynch behind Unger, yielding an interception that sealed Seattle’s 28-24 loss to New England.