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What a Blair Walsh contract extension might look like

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Contracts of comparable performance point the way.

Ken Lambert - The Seattle Times

Placekicker is a position that teams might not pay much attention until something goes wrong. You rarely see kickers on practice squads, and teams don’t often draft them above the 5th round. The Seattle Seahawks haven’t drafted a kicker since 2008. In the John Schneider era, the Seahawks have not traded for or drafted a kicker, so it seems unlikely the organization would start now.

With the season approaching the halfway mark, it’s worth examining exactly what extending Blair Walsh might cost Seattle, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

For context, the highest paid kicker in the league, Stephen Gostkowski, is paid over $4 million. Hauschka is receiving $2.6 million from the Buffalo Bills this year and averages $2.95 million on his current contract. Now, we know that the Seahawks weren’t willing to pay Hauschka after the end of his last contract, but previous to the separation he was paid $2.85 million per year. For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll set this as the maximum Seattle would be willing to pay for a kicker.

There are a couple of ways by which we can measure the value of Walsh to the Seahawks organization: Amount of utilization and field goal percentage. Let’s look at 10 kickers closest in ranking in each category and get a bit of an idea of what to expect from a potential Walsh contract.

Sorting the current NFL kickers by field goal percentage, we see some pretty recognizable names.

Walsh, in his current contract, is paid less than all but three of these kickers. This doesn’t bode well for the Seahawks continuing to kick over 90% on the cheap. The average kicker from this sample population is paid just under $2.5 million per year, with just under $1 million guaranteed. However, most of the kickers on this list, especially near the top, are long-established names. Safe bets from an organizational standpoint.

Field goal percentage doesn’t tell the whole story. Seattle must also balance accuracy with volume, and if we sort the nearest kickers to Walsh by number of attempts, the picture gets quite a bit different.

In this alternative population, our average kicker is paid about $1.5 million per year, with about $360k guaranteed. That’s quite the disparity between our high and low populations.

Consider for a moment that Walsh’s one year “prove it” contract is $1.03 million, but previous to his disastrous 2016 season he was set to earn a cool $2.7 million. So where does this all leave us? The Seahawks have just over $30 million in cap space in 2018, with which they need to sign quite a few free agents, possibly their own — Jimmy Graham, Luke Joeckel, Sheldon Richardson, and others. Our friends at overthecap.com have the list for you here. Given Walsh’s history, past struggles, but relatively young age, I’d expect Seattle to offer Walsh a three-year extension at $2.2-2.5 million average per year with about $600k-750k guaranteed. This would place his next contract at the same length as Hauschka’s last Seahawks deal.

If Walsh continues his current performance throughout the year, there’s little reason to go hunting for another kicker any time soon. And while he’s certainly shined so far this year, Seattle may be hesitant to pay him as much as his previous earning potential with the Minnesota Vikings. A three-year deal allows the Seahawks to hold on to their new franchise kicker for a few more years and gives them the option to further extend in the last year of his future contract.

In any case, given the recent history of contract extensions in December for Seattle, I expect a longer term deal offer in store for Walsh under the Christmas tree in order to avoid him hitting the open market.