The 6’6”, 305-pound Ashworth was originally acquired as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco out of Colorado in 2001. He played in all 45 games of his collegiate career, and started all 11 as a senior. Released by the 49ers following their ‘01 training camp, he was signed by the Patriots and spent the majority of the 2001 season on New England’s practice squad. 2002 saw him listed as a reserve tight end for one game, and on the inactive list for the remainder of the season.
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 17: Tom Ashworth #68 of the New England Patriots celebrates his touchdown catch with Mike Vrabel #50 in the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 17, 2005 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
On September 28, 2003, Ashworth got his first start at right tackle against the Washington Redskins. He would become the team’s starting right tackle for the regular season’s final 13 contests. Continuing his status through the postseason, he was the starting right tackle of the offensive line that did not allow a sack in the Patriots’ 32-29 Super Bowl XXXVIII victory over the Carolina Panthers.
He missed the second half of the 2004 season with a back injury – starting the first six games and then going on injured reserve - but was re-signed by New England in March of 2005. He started 11 games last season.
Complete details of Ashworth’s Seattle contract have not yet been announced, but it has been reported by several sources that he will make $4.5 million in 2006, including base salary and signing bonus.
On March 20, Seattle lost Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson to the Minnesota Vikings in a controversial arbitration case. Ashworth will be expected to start on Seattle’s excellent offensive line, although speculation persists as to where his spot will be. The smart money has Ashworth starting at right tackle for Seattle and Sean Locklear, 2005’s starting right tackle, moving back inside to his primary collegiate position. Locklear started every game of his junior year at North Carolina State at right guard, and split time between right guard, right tackle and left tackle in his senior year.
Ashworth himself has the versatility to play several positions, a point reinforced when we asked Jon Scott, the Publisher of PatriotsInsider.com, about him. “He has played fullback, extra tight end on jumbo formations, left tackle and right tackle”, Scott said.
“I haven’t seen Ashworth play guard,” Scott continued, “but that doesn’t mean he can’t. He’s a bit stiff. I mean, you look at Stephen Neal and he gets after it in blocking, he’s mobile, he’s fluid, he may not be that strong but he can move. You look at Ashworth and think he’s a lumbering wall in a football player’s body. He can’t run - well he can - but it’s not pretty. He’s a big guy. I would think your other guy (Locklear) would move inside before Ashworth does.”
Scott also revealed that Ashworth left New England as a free agent because the Patriots are looking to redefine their line and didn’t see the former starter as a future star. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were interested, but weren’t offering the kind of money Ashworth and his agent wanted. “He’s a swing tackle who wants to sign a deal to be a starter,” Scott said. “If that’s not available, then it’s about the money.”
It’s worth mentioning that after losing blocking tight end extraordinaire Ryan Hannam to the Cowboys last week, Seattle might well be looking for someone to fill that role in certain instances.
When asked what Seattle’s newest O-lineman will bring to the table, Scott spoke more of reliability than stupendous potential. “If Seattle is looking for a guy to step right in and be dominating, that’s not Ashworth -- neither in the run nor in the pass. He will however step in and NOT be a problem, which is at least half the battle.”
Scouts have rated Ashworth as a player with fine technique, who can be overwhelmed by larger defenders but gets by on savvy and quickness, as opposed to pure speed. Given Seattle’s recent ability to plug in undervalued players at key positions based on their abilities to play to scheme, Ashworth’s deal could be the latest in a line of smart, under-the-radar acquisitions.
Special thanks to Jon Scott of PatriotsInsider for his exclusive insight.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com.