Four years younger. And $2.45 million cheaper.
That’s the difference between 27-year-old Blair Walsh’s maximum charge against the Seahawks’ salary cap in 2017 and what Steven Hauschka cost in 2016.
ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia reported Tuesday Walsh’s one-year contract with Seattle is worth $800,000 in base pay, with $300,000 in bonuses for making and staying on the roster next season. None of that money is guaranteed.
So it’s essentially a prove-it deal. Walsh has the opportunity to earn a richer, longer contract if he succeeds in rebuilding his career with a fresh start in Seattle this year.
It’s also a pay cut of $315,000 from the salary Walsh had last year with Minnesota. The Vikings drafted Walsh in the sixth round in 2012 when he became a rookie All-Pro and set an NFL record by going 10 for 10 on field goals from 50 yards or more. When he missed four field goals, four extra points and fouled up kickoffs in the first nine games of the 2016 season, Minnesota released him.
He’d been a unsigned free agent from mid-November until last week. The Seahawks signed him to get younger and, yes, much cheaper at kicker.
Hauschka, 31, is due to become an unrestricted free agent March 9. He’s been Seattle’s kicker since signing as a free agent during the 2011 preseason. This past season he missed four field goals and six extra points. Misses against Arizona on Christmas Eve and at the Cardinals in an overtime tie in October were among the reasons the Seahawks blew the No. 2 seed they had been holding in the NFC playoff hierarchy until the next-to-last-game of the regular season.
Before those troubles he was so good many fans called him "Hausch Money." He made 93 of 103 field goals, including one from 58 yards, from the stretch of Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning season of 2013 through the 2015 season. His kick that sliced through the 25-below wind chill of Minneapolis minutes before Walsh’s infamous miss from 23 yards way wide left won that playoff game for Seattle at Minnesota two seasons ago.
"He 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...," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last month. "But I outwardly commended him about showing that he was back and on by the way he finished."
Hauschka made $2.7 million in 2016, with a salary-cap charge of $3,525,000.
The Seahawks could keep both Hauschka and Walsh for a preseason competition. But that’s unlikely. It would require re-signing Hauschka in an open market, and Hauschka unfathomably accepting what, given Walsh’s minimal contract numbers, would have to be a deal for nearly half the annual value than Hauschka made in 2016. Chances are extremely high another team will be willing to pay a kicker with Hauschka’s proven performance -- he’s third all-time in the NFL with a career field-goal success rate of 87.2 percent -- for closer to the $2 million-plus he made last season.
Keeping Hauschka now would also mean Seattle committing more money against its cap in 2017 for the kicker position than the team’s current regime of Carroll and general manager John Schneider has ever spent.
So, yes, Walsh looks more like Hauschka’s replacement than his competitor.
Walsh led the league in made field goals (34) in 2015, but the Vikings gave up on him midway through this past season amid belief he never truly got over that playoff miss against the Seahawks.
Now, he gets a fresh start – with the team that has already benefited hugely from him. And for a minimal, team-friendly price.