Three Dawg Night: Former Huskies Score Big in Free Agency

Danny Shelton and Desmond Trufant reunited as teammates after signing with Detroit Lions.

Danny Shelton, Cory Littleton and Desmond Truant were highly productive football players for the University of Washington who, from the amount of free-agent money recently tossed their way, have become even better pros.

While they didn't draw the same kind of attention that Tom Brady and others did for changing NFL teams, the trio of former Huskies cashed in handsomely.

Shelton, a pleasant surprise at defensive tackle for the New England Patriots last season, likewise followed Brady out the free-agent door and agreed to a two-year $8 million deal with the Detroit Lions.

Littleton, an undrafted free-agent linebacker in 2016 who turned himself into a Pro Bowl selection two years later, moved from the Los Angeles Rams to the Las Vegas Raiders, where he will receive a three-year, $36-million deal. 

Trufant drew his release from the Atlanta Falcons in a cost-cutting measure, but he rebounded with a two-year $21-million deal with the Lions, becoming teammates with Shelton once more.

Shelton, a first-team AP All-America selection for the Huskies and a first-round NFL draft pick, resurrected his career with the Patriots by emerging in 2019 as a starter. Early projections had him sitting on New England's roster bubble. Instead, he turned in his best NFL season in five with 61 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble.    

Injuries slowed him in Cleveland, where he played three seasons after going as the 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft. At 6-foot-2 and 345 pounds, Shelton plays with great strength and the requisite quickness. 

Littleton, a 34-game starter at the UW but no more than an All- Pac-12 honorable mention selection, has really developed into a game-disrupting NFL player.

After two seasons largely spent as a special-teamer, Littleton earned a starting job at inside linebacker in 2018 and 2019 and totaled 259 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 5 interceptions, returning one of the pass thefts for a touchdown.

Draft analysts say the Raiders turned one of the worst NFL linebacking corps into one of the best with the signings of Nick Kwiatkoski from Chicago and Littleton.

Trufant was let go by Atlanta, the team that drafted him in 2012 with the 22nd overall pick, to save $5 million against its salary cap. In his seven seasons with the Falcons, he started 97 games and earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2015.

He intercepted 13 passes and recovered 7 fumbles, returning two of the bobbles for touchdowns. He had a career-best 4 interceptions last season before breaking a forearm and missing nearly half the year. The analysts say he's gone from lockdown corner to a dependable coverage man.

Trufant was an All-Pac-12 choice for the Huskies and one of three brothers who have played in the NFL, all cornerbacks. Marcus provided secondary strength for WSU and the Seahawks, and Isaiah lined up for Eastern Washington and the New York Jets. 

Shelton, Littleton and Truant each accepted scholarships from a Husky coaching staff headed up by Steve Sarkisian, now the Alabama offensive coordinator.

Check out the video in which Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas and Luis Miguel Echegaray discuss NFL free agency in general.