The Seahawks have signed Blair Walsh.
Yes, that Blair Walsh, the former Vikings placekicker who missed a chip-shot field goal to gift Seattle a playoff win over Minnesota two seasons ago.
Seattle announced Walsh’s signing on Thursday, a surprising move given his recent struggles and a particularly interesting one given what it could mean for Stephen Hauschka, who’s one of 14 Seahawks set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Seahawks are hoping Walsh, 27, can rediscover his pre-2016 form. He was one of the more accurate kickers in the NFL over his first four seasons, converting 85.2 percent of his field-goal attempts after being chosen in the sixth round out of Georgia in 2012. But he yanked a 27-yard kick that would have given the Vikings a win over Seattle in the wild-card round in January of 2016, then he continued to struggle last season, going 12 of 16 on field goals (one was blocked) and 15 of 19 on extra points in nine games before Minnesota released him in November.
Players who are released don’t have to wait until free agency begins in March to sign with a new team, which is why Walsh was available to Seattle. They also don’t factor into their new team’s compensatory-pick equation.
At first blush, the Seahawks signing Walsh doesn’t seem to bode well for Hauschka’s return, though it still wouldn’t be out of the question. At the very least, Walsh gives the Seahawks a fallback option in case they don’t re-sign Hauschka and perhaps some leverage in their attempts to do so.
Hauschka, 31, was as reliable as they come over his first five years with the Seahawks, but he’s coming off an inconsistent season in which he – and Seattle’s kicking operation as a whole – uncharacteristically struggled at times, particularly with extra points. Including the playoffs, Hauschka was 33 of 40 on PATs and 37 of 41 on field-goal attempts. One of those missed field goals was a 28-yarder that would have given Seattle an overtime win over Arizona in October.
Of his 11 combined misses between the regular season and playoffs, six were blocked, though coach Pete Carroll more than once pointed to Hauschka’s low trajectory as a factor.
“Unfortunately he had gotten in a little stink with kicking the extra points and it added up on him,” Carroll said at this end-of-season press conference when asked about Hauschka’s year. “I was really, really excited that he finished the season on a good note and he hit everything he had a chance to hit because he knew he was up against it, he knew he needed to show that. I wish it would have happened a few weeks earlier just so he could have had more weeks to bank on that.
“But Hausch is a really good kicker that got in a bit of a rut with the extra points and he’s come through for us a lot of times and been a big play guy for us so. But I outwardly commended him about showing that he was back and on by the way he finished.”
Hauschka just finished a three-year deal that averaged $2.85 million. Terms of Walsh’s deal with Seattle have not been reported. It’s presumably for something close to and maybe a little more than the veteran minimum, which for a player of Walsh’s service time is $775,000 in 2017.