Following the Seattle Seahawks 17-14 loss to Washington on Sunday and Blair Walsh’s contribution of three missed field goals in the defeat, many fans are calling for Walsh’s release. Hawks fans are certainly no stranger to Walsh misses, having benefited greatly from the Walsh miss at the end of the 2015 Wild Card round of the playoffs while he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings, and many were adamantly against signing Walsh at all.
In any case, leading into the Thursday night game on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, Walsh will have little time to dwell on his misses and will look to get right against a Cardinals team fighting for their playoff lives and looking to pull into a tie for second place in the NFC West. Regardless of how Walsh responds or how the team feels about his performance going forward, the largest stumbling block to replacing Walsh would be the salary cap.
Seattle has already borrowed against the cap of 2018 and 2019 in order to assemble a roster with the best chance of bringing home a Lombardi this season or next, and the team has basically tapped every last dollar available for 2017.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Hawks currently have just over $778k in available cap space. As Walsh is a vested veteran with four or more accrued seasons who was on the roster for the Week 1 opener against Green Bay, his entire base salary is guaranteed. This means the team would save none of his base salary by cutting him, and would only save money on the per game roster bonuses he is being paid.
On top of his base salary, Walsh receives $18,750 per game for being on the gameday roster, and with minimum salary for a rookie being $27,352, the least that it would cost to replace Walsh for the remainder of the season would be $68,823, or about 9% of the cap space the team has available.
Complicating things further, is that that is the amount it would cost to sign a rookie with zero experience kicking in the NFL, or a rookie whose experience kicking went so well that another team decided to move on. Even if the team were to sign an experienced kicker for the minimum salary and take advantage of the veteran cap benefit rule, even with no signing bonus given to the player, that would cost the team an additional $139,411 down the stretch, or nearly 18% of the available cap for the remainder of the season.
So, while the instant reaction of many fans has been an emotional outcry to cut Walsh, the simple fact of the matter is that doing so would further hamstring the team down the stretch. The cap is already tight as it is, and with multiple players leaving Sunday’s game with injuries, including Eddie Lacy (groin), Marcus Smith (concussion), and Tre Madden (Achilles), the team might have even less cap space to work with if one of those players ends up being moved to IR.
Thus, while most fans will not like it, odds are they will be watching Walsh kick field goals for the team down the stretch. Or miss field goals. Either way, the team lacks much flexibility at this point to burn cap space replacing an uninjured player who had a bad game in inclement weather. Hopefully Walsh get things figured out and fixes whatever ailed him during the game against Washington.