Seahawks could be looking at having their fourth different placekicker in four years in 2019, assuming Sebastian Janikowski doesn't return.
The special teams for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 could maybe be best described as “Michael Dickson, Yay!, Sebastian Janikowski, Ole!’’
Okay, so Janikowski did more than not really try to make a tackle against the 49ers — three game-winning field goals wasn’t nothing, especially after the failed Blair Walsh project of the year before.
But Janikowski is likely a one-and-done with the Seahawks, with Seattle having already signed free agent Sam Ficken as a possible replacement (there will likely be another candidate brought in at some point, if not more).
Dickson, though, is here to stay, the fifth-round pick having become something of a sensation in his rookie season, becoming only the second Seahawk punter to make the Pro Bowl (and first rookie since 1985), and highlighting the year for Seattle’s special teams.
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The end of the 2017 had made it evident a special teams shakeup of some sort was coming in 2018. But no one knew until draft day just how drastic it would be when Seattle traded up to take Dickson, which effectively spelled the end of the career for Jon Ryan, who left holding basically every punting record in team history.
Janikowski, meanwhile, won a training camp battle with Jason Myers to replace Walsh, who had failed in one year to become the long-term replacement for Stephen Hauschka, who left via free agency following the 2016 season.
Myers would go on to land with the Jets and make the Pro Bowl (so you can’t the Seahawks couldn’t spot a potential Pro Bowl kicking battery).
Janikowski had a few critical misses but, as noted, also kicked game-winners to beat Arizona twice and also on the road at Carolina, which was maybe the key victory of the entire season.
More critically, though, the 40-year-old Janikowski (who turns 41 in March) suffered two injuries down the stretch, including in the playoff game against Dallas, after having missed the 2017 season with a back injury.
Dickson helped the punting game become a significant positive again — Seattle’s opponents had an average drive start of the 27.16-yard line, sixth-best in the NFL and almost two yards better than in 2017, when Seattle ranked 22nd (stats per FootballOutsiders.com).
Tyler Ott handled the snapping duties for a second season.
Tyler Lockett was again the primary punt and kickoff returner though the Seahawks also broken in Rashaad Penny some on kickoffs, something they’d probably like to expand in future seasons.
Key stat: Hit 22-27 field goals which had Seattle ranked 22nd in the NFL in field goal percentage.
Contract status: Now an unrestricted free agent.
Key stat: Is 3-6 on field goals and 14-15 on PATs in his career, all with the Rams over the last two seasons.
Contract status: Signed a one-year futures deal worth $495,000.
Key stat: Seattle’s net punting average of 42.5 was a team record.
Contract status: Entering second season of four-year rookie deal, with a base salary of $570,000 in 2019.
Key stat: Had one assisted tackle.
Contract status: Now a restricted free agent,
Solidifying the placekicking situation is the key this offseason. Seattle will likely be on its fourth kicker in four years, a merry-go-round that eventually needs to stop.
Ficken was signed quickly after the season to give Seattle another kicking option but he isn’t likely to be the only one.
Punter is set and Ott fended off camp competition last year but may need to do so again this season.
Lockett is becoming so important to the offense in his receiving role that the Seahawks may want to have some other legit return options to give him some breaks.
POSSIBLE FREE AGENT TARGETS
There will be some big name vets potentially available, notably New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, though he could get the Franchise Tag, as could San Francisco’s Robbie Gould.
Others who could be/are available include Matt Bryant, Dan Bailey, Cario Santos and Chandler Catanzaro.
Seattle signed Janikowski last year in April after signing Myers in January.
Dickson was the first punter or kicker drafted during the Carroll era and unless the Seahawks add substantially to their current four picks may not repeat that feat this year.
But as usual there will be a number of kickers available as undrafted free agents.
Kickers who could get drafted include Cole Tracy of LSU, Austin Seibert of Oklahoma, John Baron II of San Diego State and Matt Gay of Utah. Gay was the All-Pac-12 first team kicker the last two years and had 30 field goals in 2017 when he was a consensus All-American and he hit a 53-yarder against Washington in the Pac-12 title game.
The Seahawks don’t need to draft a punter.