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NFL’s franchise-tag window opens; Seahawks again have no candidates

Luke Willson is among Seattle's 14 unrestricted free agents, none of which are franchise-tag candidates. (AP)

With Wednesday marking the beginning of a two-week window in which NFL teams can designate franchise-tag players, here’s a Seahawks trivia question:

Who was the last player they tagged?

Hint: Think special teams.

Another one: Think of the first time the Seahawks wore lime-green jerseys.

On a silver platter: Think of Jim Mora losing his mind and throwing a special-teams player under the bus after the Seahawks lost a game while wearing lime-green jerseys for the first time (and only other time aside from this past season).

That would be Olindo Mare. Remember him? He missed two field goals (and made four) during a six-point home loss to the Bears in September of 2009, a game that would have been entirely forgettable had the Seahawks’ attire not been burned into everyone’s memory and had the head coach not infamously made his kicker the scapegoat afterward, calling Mare’s misses – from 43 and 34 yards out – “unacceptable” and “inexcusable.”

Willson, Hauschka among Seahawks’ unrestricted free agents | RFAs

Those would actually be Mare’s only two missed kicks that season; he finished 24 of 26 on field-goal attempts and made all 28 extra points. He played under the franchise tag in 2010, the year Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over, and wasn’t brought back the following season, when Seattle replaced him with Stephen Hauschka.

The Seahawks haven’t used the tag since then. They could have in 2012 had Marshawn Lynch not agreed to an extension, and they would have had the option in their back pocket last year had either Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner decided to play out their rookie contracts with an eye toward reaching the open market, but Seattle locked them both up the summer before.

The Seahawks don’t have any realistic candidates for the franchise tag this year, the reason being that none of their pending unrestricted free agents are worth anywhere near the amount of money that it would cost to tag them.

The tag allows a team to keep a UFA – one per year – from hitting the open market by tendering him a one-year contract offer at a predetermined price. The price varies depending on the type of franchise tag – non-exclusive, which is the more common one, or exclusive – but it essentially amounts to either a) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position or b) a 20 percent increase from what he made the previous season, whichever is greater.

Either way, it’s exceedingly expensive and therefore reserved for only the top-tier free agents who might command a contract averaging something close to the one-year tag value for their position.

None of the Seahawks’ 14 UFAs qualify as such.

Mike Morgan is technically the only starter among that group, but he’s really a part-time player because the Seahawks sub out their strong-side linebacker when their defense is in nickel. For reference, 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton projects the non-exclusive tag value for linebackers at $15.28 million (the values won’t be known until the league reveals the 2017 salary cap sometime before the start of free agency). Morgan has made $1 million each of the last two seasons.

Luke Willson is one of Seattle’s other notable free agents and could conceivably command $5 million a season (if so, more likely from another team than the Seahawks), but Clayton projects the tag for tight ends to be worth almost twice as much, $9.87 million.

Stephen Hauschka may have been the only Seahawks UFA with any shot whatsoever at getting tagged, but it’s out of the question entirely now that Seattle has signed Blair Walsh. It would have been a longshot anyway with the projected tag value for kickers at $4.95 million, too steep for a player coming off a down season and a previous contract that averaged $2.85 million.

And so Mare will remain the answer to the Seahawks’ franchise-tag trivia question for at least another year.