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Thoughts on Steven Hauschka and the franchise tag

By Brady Henderson

The Seahawks entered last offseason with several key players set to hit free agency. Running back Marshawn Lynch, defensive end Red Bryant, linebackers Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne, offensive linemen Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini, fullback Michael Robinson and tight end John Carlson were among those without contracts for the 2013 season.

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Seattle's Steven Hauschka connected on 27 of 30 field-goal attempts last season, including the playoffs. (AP)
That list is much shorter and less star-studded this offseason. That explains why we're dedicating an entire blog post to kicker Steven Hauschka, who's among this year's group of Seahawks who are set to become unrestricted free agents.

Monday marked the beginning of a two-week window during which teams can designate franchise players, and Hauschka is considered the most likely candidate to receive the tag from the Seahawks. Some of their other pending unrestricted free agents – a list that includes defensive tackles Alan Branch and Jason Jones, Hill, and cornerback Marcus Trufant – could be back next season, but not under the franchise tag.

Hauschka's accuracy and a relatively low price tag are reasons why he makes sense as a potential franchise player.

Hauschka was mostly reliable last season, his second in Seattle. He connected on 24 of 27 field-goal attempts during the regular season before making all three of his attempts in the playoffs. One of those misses was the result of a blocked attempt. He was 23 of 23 on kicks inside of 50 yards.

The projected franchise figure for kickers (and punters) is $2,926,000. While that's more than twice what Hauschka made in 2012, it's by no means a prohibitive amount, especially considering the Seahawks' healthy salary-cap situation.

There's precedent for such a move, too. The Seahawks tagged Olindo Mare in 2010, a year after he went 24 of 26 on field-goal attempts. That one-year offer came with a $2.8 million salary, which was roughly double what Mare made the year before.

While team's could do much worse than a kicker with Hauschka's accuracy, his leg strength does leave something to be desired. He made only one field goal longer than 50 yards last season, and the fact that he only attempted four of them suggests the Seahawks didn't trust his ability to connect from long range.

Might the influx of strong-legged kickers from last year's draft class compel the Seahawks to try to find the next Greg Zuerlein, Blair Walsh or Justin Tucker? Possibly. That route would be cheaper, for sure, but there's no guarantee this draft class includes kickers of that caliber.

Teams have until March 4 to use the franchise tag. Free agency begins the following week.

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