SEATTLE — The best kick returner the Seahawks have had won’t be back next season as the Seahawks informed Leon Washington he will be released.
Acquired in 2010 in a draft-day deal with the Jets, Washington returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in his three seasons and last year made the Pro Bowl when he averaged a career-high 29 yards on kickoff returns.
“It’s been (an) awesome ride,” Washington posted on his Twitter account. “Got nothing bad to say about the great Northwest.”
Washington, who will turn 31 in August, subsequently confirmed his release. That decision comes after Seattle’s acquisition of Percy Harvin, who averaged more than 35 yards on kickoff returns last season and has run back five kicks for touchdowns in four seasons.
Washington was scheduled to make $1.5 million in salary and also was due a $1 million bonus. While the release was not a surprise following the acquisition of Harvin, that doesn’t mean it was easy.
“The hardest part of the business is calling somebody and telling him that we’re going to go in a different direction,” general manager John Schneider said when asked about Washington. “He did a phenomenal job here. The fans love him. He’s such a pro. He really handled himself with extreme class.”
Harvin thanked Vikings Nation during his opening remarks at Tuesday’s introductory news conference. He thanked Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf for his help in getting treated at the Mayo Clinic for migraine headaches that plagued him his first two NFL seasons but haven’t been a problem since 2010.
And anyone looking for him to throw rocks at the Vikings after his exit was disappointed, because the receiver only blew kisses.
“I had a good four years there,” Harvin said. “We had a playoff run. I got to play with Brett Favre. I got to play with the most dominant back in the game in Adrian Peterson. I got to play with some stars. ... I’ll keep those bonds forever.”
But it wasn’t all golden last season, with Harvin asking for a trade as early as June. There were also reports of disputes with coach Leslie Frazier and the fact Harvin rehabilitated his injured ankle on his own, away from the team, after being placed on injured reserve in December.
“Regarding the last year, I have great respect for everybody in that program from top to bottom,” Harvin said. “Yes, we had some bumps in the road, but I respect them and I feel they respected me.”