Is a placekicker important enough to warrant a “franchise tag”? That’s the question the Seattle Seahawks might be asking about their trustworthy toe Steven Hauschka.
Over the next two weeks NFL teams can slap the franchise tag on the most important unrestricted free agents they don’t want to lose. Seattle last year elected not to use the franchise tag on Hauschka. This year not doing so will likely mean he leaves for greener pastures and another team.
The case for keeping Hauschka is a strong one. He made 33 of 35 field goals, and one of the misses was blocked. Of 94 kickoffs, 48 were touchbacks. Opponents returned 44 of his kicks for just a 24 yard average. There’s a reason teammates and coaches nicknamed him “Hausch Money.”
Under terms of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement teams may use the “exclusive” franchise tag, which prevents the player from talking to another team and from signing an offer sheet. The downside is the team would have to pay that player an amount equal to the five highest-paid players at their position.
Last year Hauschka earned a base salary of $715,000, and looking at recent contracts from other kickers has a chance to bump that up to $3.5 million next year. Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys signed a $22.5 million contract, with a little over $3.2 million annually. Oakland is paying Sabastian Janikowski $3.775 million a year, with 8 million of his multi-year contract guaranteed.
If Seattle is serious about keeping Hauschka the best option would be to offer him a long-term deal with a signing bonus and incentives. This would help fit the salary cap constraints and save money for high-profile free agents like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III in the coming years.
Teams can also use the “nonexclusive” version of the franchise tag. Players could negotiate with other teams and sign an offer sheet. The franchised player’s current team would have seven days to match the offer. If they don’t, the contract becomes effective with the new team, which in turn would have to give up two first-round draft picks to the player’s former team.
Seattle has used the franchise tag on kickers in the past, including Olindo Mare in 2010, and Josh Brown in 2007. The king of the Seahawks’ franchise tag though, was Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones, who had the distinction in 2002, 2003, and 2004, before signing a long term deal.
-Bill Swartz, 1090TheFan-
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