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Kicker Consideration, Week 12: How will the Seahawks move on from Blair Walsh?

Seahawks remain committed to Blair Walsh. A look ahead to 2018.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

In all likelihood Blair Walsh will not be a Seattle Seahawk after the current season, what to do to replace him has been a subject of rather intense debate. In general, teams do not invest a high amount of draft capital into special teams players. Well, except that one time in Tampa for Roberto Aguayo. But, since Seattle lacks a second round draft pick we can’t exactly go off wasting one on a kicker.

The Seahawks have never drafted a punter or place kicker in the John Schneider era, though they have not exactly been positions of high turn over. In general, NFL teams tend not to spend higher than a fifth round pick on place kickers, but I’d say it’s safe to assume Schneider is unlikely to spend more than a seventh, and it would have to be an exceptional kicker to do so. Within the PAC-12, there are a few kickers who could be worth considering, but none Seattle are likely to spend a draft pick on if for no other reason than we’ve never seen this management team do so. One would think if there was a draft class to have taken a kicker, it would have been 2017 with Steven Hauschka on the way out.

First, out of Utah there is senior kicker Matt Gay. Gay is currently perfect on extra points this year with 37 attempts, and 27 of 31 from field goal range with a career long of 56. While Gay might be an option, there are a couple hurdles in the way. He’s been granted an extra year of college eligibility, so he may not yet be interested in turning pro. Additionally, as he kicks at Utah, there are some concerns that his accuracy and distance statistics are influenced by his home stadium’s high altitude. A good rule of thumb is that every 1000 feet of altitude extends a kicker’s range by about a yard. Another concern is that Gay only has one year of college level statistics to evaluate, so while he looks good on paper it’s all but assured he would need to walk on to have a chance. If Gay can replicate or improve on his 2017 season, expect to hear more about him in the future.

Another local talent to keep an eye on is Washington State’s Erik Powell. Powell has significantly more college tape to his name and has used his four years of college eligibility. So, he’s much more likely to be looking to go to the next level. Powell is 44 of 45 on extra points, and 19 of 23 from field goal range with a long of 56. His longest kick was kicked at Arizona, but he also has two 52 yard kicks good at Oregon and Cal. Against USC, Powell kicked the game winning field goal and showed no signs of letting the moment overwhelm him. During the 2016 season, he had a bit of a down year but bounced back in a big way in 2017. Additionally, Powell was named a 2017 Lou Groza award finalist on November 2nd. So expect this Vancouver native to attract some attention from around the league. If he remains undrafted I hope the Seahawks make a strong push to convince him to make the trip to training camp. If nothing else it would make for a strong kicking competition going into 2018.

This far into the season, it’s incredibly unlikely that Seattle brings in a kicker to compete with Walsh. The lack of cap space, lack of talent available, and the fact that we are beyond the trade deadline make sticking with Walsh for the remainder of the year a virtual certainty. Regardless of who the Seahawks bring in via the draft, or more likely free agency, the team cannot accept 75% as an acceptable field goal percentage with only one attempt from beyond 50 yards. If more attempts were from extreme range, it would be easier to accept a field goal percentage below 80%. While it’s frustrating to watch Blair Walsh miss several kicks this season, I still hope he finishes the year strong and not just because it benefits Seattle. If he can perform well the rest of the year, especially in the playoffs, it could help him get rid of the last of his demons. I have my doubts he’ll be in a Seahawks uniform next year baring a major turnaround. Walsh was acquired because of trying to save on cap room, and to some extent the team has gotten what they’ve paid for. But I just can’t see Seattle extending him at this point.