The Seahawks’ preemptive strike on the eve of free agency could be one of their most fundamental this offseason.
The team announced Monday night it had agreed to a three-year contract with defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, keeping him from free agency. That is the easier of two key steps to maintain the league’s top rushing defense from 2015.
Rubin, 29, excelled last season as a “three-technique” run stuffer off the shoulder of the opposing guard. Seattle got him on a one-year deal last year for $2.6 million, when he was coming off an injury-affected 2014 season with Cleveland.
Rubin and veteran nose tackle Brandon Mebane were the foundation of the league’s No. 1 rush defense last season. Seattle would love to keep both, and needed to keep one to retain an anchor to what it considers the basis for the entire defensive system: stopping the run.
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The financial terms of his new contract were not yet known, but Rubin is likely returning at a far lower price than the more renowned, accomplished Mebane would be. Rubin’s performance in 2015 — and the fact he finished a four-year, $26.5 million deal with the Browns before arriving in Seattle — suggests he may be re-signing for close to $4 million per season with the Seahawks.
Rubin also made two big plays beyond his run-stuffing role last season: his second career interception, in November’s win over Pittsburgh; and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter in Vikings territory during the Jan. 10 playoff game. The latter set up Steven Hauschka’s winning field goal late in Seattle’s 10-9 win in arctic Minnesota in the wild card round.
That was the first postseason game of Rubin’s eight-year NFL career.
“Hopefully I can keep on stringing them along,” Rubin said of such big plays — and playoff appearances.
Mebane turned 31 in January. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the league’s market opens at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The Seahawks’ agreement keeps Rubin from joining him.
The team has other players besides Mebane scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday, including linebacker Bruce Irvin, left tackle Russell Okung, right guard J.R. Sweezy, cornerback Jeremy Lane, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and punter Jon Ryan.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle