Here are five additional thoughts on the Seahawks' signing Thursday of place kicker Blair Walsh, which likely means the end for Steven Hauschka in Seattle.
Here are five day-after thoughts on the Seahawks’ signing of place kicker Blair Walsh on Thursday.
1, As noted in the linked story, this likely means the end for Steven Hauschka, who has been Seattle’s kicker since 2011. Hauschka made $2. 7 million last season and is now set to be an unrestricted free agent in March. Walsh will undoubtedly make much less than that with Seattle, maybe in the $1 million range or so (though his contract details have not yet been revealed). While it probably hasn’t been ruled completely out by either side, it would seem unlikely Hauschka would agree to a deal to return to his old team to compete for his old job at likely at least half of his old salary. I would imagine Seattle will at least bring in another free agent, not necessarily a veteran but an undrafted rookie or younger player, to compete with Walsh — it wouldn’t be the Seahawks’ way to just hand him the job. But Hauschka will almost certainly be looking for another home (one team that may need a kicker is the Rams) when the free agent signing period begins March 9.
2, Some readers asked about the timing of the signing. Because Walsh had been released last November and then did not sign with another team, he is what the NFL refers to as a “street’’ free agent, meaning he was not on a roster at the end of the 2016 season. Street free agents can then sign at any time with any team (this is the same as Perrish Cox, a defensive back the Seahawks also recently signed). Hauschka is among the players whose contracts run out when the new league year begins on March 9 so he cannot sign with another team until then, though he could have signed a new deal with the Seahawks as teams can sign their own players at any time. Getting Walsh signed now also gives some additional clarity to Seattle’s salary cap picture as it prepares for the free agent signing period.
3, Hauschka, who turns 32 in June, will go down as one of the best kickers in Seahawks’ history, leaving as the team’s career leader in field goals with 175 and second all-time in points (759). The apparent change in kicker also reiterates how much stability has had at that position over the years. Seattle has had just nine primary kickers in 41 seasons — by comparison, Tampa Bay, which also entered the NFL in 1976, has had 14. Seattle has had just seven primary kickers since 1982 — Norm Johnson (82-90), John Kasay (91-94), Todd Peterson (95-99), Rian Lindell (2000-02), Josh Brown (2003-07), Olindo Mare (2008-10) and Hauschka. Interestingly, none ended their careers with the Seahawks, with almost all going on to substantial post-Seattle careers — Johnson went on to kick in the Super Bowl with Pittsburgh following the 1995 season and Kasay with Carolina following the 2003 season, for instance. Something, maybe, that can give Hauschka some solace as he likely sets out to look for a new home.
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4, The signing of Walsh and likely moving on from Hauschka also marks another change to a kicking battery that had been stable from 2011-15 — Hauschka, holder/punter Jon Ryan, snapper Clint Gresham — before the Seahawks released Gresham last March. That set in motion a somewhat-dizzying search for a new snapper that ultimately settled on Nolan Frese for the regular season until he was injured in the final game, with Seattle then signing Tyler Ott for the post-season. Frese and Ott remain under contract for next season, presumably set for a camp battle at snapper. With Walsh potentially having at least one competitor, as well, it could be the most intriguing training camp for special teams battles in years.
5, That Hauschka had become a fan favorite and that Seattle fans may largely remember Walsh for his playoff miss against the Seahawks a year ago might have led to do some conflicting emotions about the move, even if conventional wisdom around the team had been that there was a good chance the Seahawks would move on from Hauschka if a cheaper option who could potentially perform similarly could be found.
One outsider’s view of the move, from WalterFootball.com, graded it as a B, writing: “No financial terms are available for this signing, but I doubt it’s much, or if anything, above the league minimum. Blair Walsh was released by the Vikings last season and spent the final two months of the year on the open market. Walsh missed four extra points in nine games, so Minnesota opted to go with someone more reliable. The Seahawks needed a kicker, as Steven Hauschka is a free agent. Walsh could prove to be a strong replacement if he mentally recovers from his playoff whiff against these very Seahawks. Walsh was once a terrific kicker; he was 35-of-38 in 2012, including 10-of-10 from 50-plus. Walsh was also excellent in 2015 before the postseason blunder; he went 34-of-39, including 6-of-8 from beyond 50. However, the missed chip-shot that would’ve given Minnesota the win over Seattle apparently ruined him. There’s always a chance Walsh could just be done mentally, so the Seahawks should acquire another kicker (seventh-rounder or UDFA) to have as competition. However, the upside is there for Walsh to potentially make a recovery and become one of the league’s top kickers again. I think this is worth a “B” grade for that reason.”