On a field that is home to acts of physical violence and emotional outbursts, the placekickers are the most cerebral occupants.
They’re really more like visitors, actually.
They’re only allowed on the field for limited periods, but usually when scoring is involved, and that heightens the pressure of their few moments in the spotlight.
It makes their consistency so valuable, their frame of mind and confidence so crucial.
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The Seahawks’ Steven Hauschka might be one of the most mentally disciplined kickers in the history of the league, which is why he’s been so valuable over the past six seasons.
And it’s why I think he’s likely to bounce back from the few glitches he encountered this season — whether he returns to the Seahawks or signs elsewhere as a free agent.
If he leaves, it will be a function of the balance between how much he wants and how much the Seahawks think he’s worth.
The risk for any team seeking to cut costs, of course, is that they’ll get what they pay for. And the Seahawks have seen first hand what can happen when a kicker misses a potential game-winner in the final moments.
Hauschka’s future in Seattle is in question as he becomes an unrestricted free agent, open to testing the market. Meanwhile, the Seahawks secured an option to Hauschka when they signed free agent Blair Walsh.
It can play out several ways. Hauschka can leave and Walsh will get the job at a likely savings to the Seahawks of a couple million a year.
The Hawks can decide to match what the market will bear for Hauschka and Walsh can push him during camp. Or they can bring in a draft pick or free agent to push Walsh.
Money is without question a very significant element for the Seahawks.
Hauschka has been a relative bargain. Last season, he was 11th in the league in kicker salary at $2.85 million. Three in the league were making over $4 million and 10 were over $3 million.
He has the third-highest career field-goal percentage in NFL history (87.2), and has made 19 of 20 field goals in the playoffs (95 percent), with his only miss a 55-yarder at Carolina after the 2015 season.
But last season, his field-goal percentage dipped slightly (from 93.5 in 2015 to 89.2).
The percentage is still strong, but miss of the potential game-winner at Arizona, and six PAT misses this season made him seem uncharacteristically shaky.
His unwaveringly smooth motion got a little yippy at times. Having added a new snapper to the kicking unit appeared to have an effect on Hauschka’s timing.
Remember, this is a man who was a neuroscience honor student, somebody who studies not only his kicking mechanics, but also all the physics and neurological aspects of the job.
His holder, punter Jon Ryan, has used the term “locked in” to describe Hauschka’s focus.
“Sometimes you look over and see him staring into space for minutes a time,” Ryan said a few years ago. “You know he’s thinking about something … deep thoughts, I guess.”
Hauschka will be 32 next season, but he noted in an earlier interview that kickers can just be nearing their peak performance in their early 30s.
He definitely has the wherewithal to recapture his focus and swing-groove.
If Walsh becomes their man, he may need some psychic rehabilitation.
As Seahawks fans gleefully recall, he yanked a 27-yard potential game-winner for the Vikings in the playoffs after the 2015 season to allow the Seahawks to advance to the divisional round against Carolina.
A former All-Pro and Pro Bowl talent, Walsh was cut by Minnesota last November when he had missed a total of four of 16 field goals and four of 19 PATs.
Critics suggested he never got over the miss against the Seahawks.
He’s younger than Hauschka, at 27, and it’s likely that they’re getting him for about a million a season.
The Seahawks kicker situation is still a long way from being determined.
It happens every season; you can’t keep everybody and decisions have to be made.
Money they may save on Hauschka could go toward bolstering the offensive line, or bringing in help at other spots that could upgrade the roster.
It’s fair to believe that Walsh has the physical skills to once again be a top-level kicker.
Maybe the Seahawks will end up giving him the chance to see if he can once again get the mental part locked in.
And if he can’t, the money they’re saving will seem like a false economy.