The Seahawks sent a loud message early in training camp when they made what seemed like a rather quiet signing, agreeing to a contract extension with snapper Tyler Ott.
Signing Ott meant that they had their entire kicking battery — kicker Jason Myers and punter Michael Dickson the others — under contract through at least the 2021 season.
The Seahawks hoped the move would bring stability to an area that had some unexpected lapses in previous seasons, with shaky one-year tenures of kickers Blair Walsh and Sebastian Janikowski and snapper Nolan Frese.
While the 2019 season may have offered a few more bumps in the road with the kicking units than expected, there’s nothing to indicate the plan hatched last summer isn’t still the plan going forward — to keep the current kicking battery intact as long as possible.
As we conclude our review of the Seahawks’ position groups heading into the offseason, here’s a look at the special teams.
Contract situation: Entering second season of four-year deal signed last spring with a $2.6 million base salary and a $3.6 million cap hit.
2019 number to know: His career field-goal percentage of 83.9 is 14th among active kickers, according to Pro Football Reference.
Contract situation: Entering third season of his original four-year rookie deal and is due a base salary of $660,000 in 2020.
2019 number to know: Gross average of 45.1 in 2019 was the seventh-best in team history. His 48.2 as a rookie in 2018 is the best.
Contract situation: Entering second season of four-year deal signed last summer and is due a base salary of $850,000.
2019 number to know: Has played 48 straight games.
The Seahawks signed Myers last March to a four-year deal that included $5.5 million guaranteed after cutting him the year before to keep Janikowski.
Myers was coming off a season with the Jets that saw him invited to the Pro Bowl after making 33 of 36 field goals and 6 of 7 from 50 or beyond.
Some regression to the mean was probably to be expected, and that’s what Seattle got. Myers was good but not to the same level as the year before, hitting 23 of 28 and 2 of 4 from 50 or beyond. He missed a couple of critical ones, including a 40-yarder on the final play against Tampa Bay that forced overtime. He also missed a 50 yarder late in the first half of the playoff game against Green Bay when the score was 14-3, and the Packers took advantage of good field position to drive for a TD that made it 21-3 at the half.
Myers’ 82.1% was tied for 17th in the NFL and Seattle will hope for a little better in 2019.
But Myers also made some big ones, such as the winner on the last play in overtime against the 49ers, and he made his last nine in the regular season.
Dickson didn’t put up quite the numbers he had as a rookie, when he made the Pro Bowl, admitting later he felt some pressure early in the season to live up to the hype. But Dickson returned to form in the second half of the season and tied the team record with 34 punts downed inside the 20, doing so on 74 punts. Jon Ryan (2011) and Jeff Feagles (1999) had held the record previously doing so on 95 and 84 punts, respectively.
And Dickson’s 40.9 net punting average was second in team history behind only his 42.5 the year before.
As noted, the Seahawks don’t need to do much of anything to its kicking battery unless it wants to add competition.
Kicking, of course, isn’t all that makes up special teams, and the Seahawks could do some things to beef up some of the rest of the special teams, which by at least one measure was middle-of-the-road in 2019. Via the rankings of longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin — who has devised a point system to rate special teams for 41 years — Seattle had the 16th best overall special teams last season.
And maybe most in need of some juice are the return games. The Seahawks were 24th in punt returns last season at 6.1 per attempt and 29th in kickoff returns at 19.6.
Tyler Lockett has been the primary returner for the last five years, but whether it was the injuries he had late in the season or the weight of taking on more responsibility in the offense, his numbers in kickoff returns (19.9 average) and punts (5.1) were the lowest of his career.
Statistically, Seattle got a little more out of the other players it used at those spots last year as David Moore averaged 7.5 yards per punt return and Travis Homer averaged 21.8 on kickoff returns.
Lockett has insisted he wants to continue to handle returns.
But it may make sense to take more of that responsibility off his hands as his career continues.
And it’s not as if Seattle hasn’t made moves the past few years with the return game in mind, such as with the selection of Rashaad Penny two years ago — when the Seahawks touted his return ability as a factor in taking him in the first round — and Ugo Amadi last year (Amadi was one of the nation’s best punt returners at Oregon).
So it’ll be no surprise if the Seahawks bring in some young players again this year who have a background in return roles to add to the competition, one that may be viewed a little more seriously in 2020.