Examining Steven Hauschka and the Seahawks Potential Use of the Franchise Tag

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterFebruary 20, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:   Steven Hauschka #4 of the Seattle Seahawks kicks a second quarter field goal against the Washington Redskins during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Heading into the offseason, the Seahawks are one of the few teams that have a limited number of large, high dollar expiring contracts. Fringe players and aging veterans like Cameron Morrah, Clinton McDonald, Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill will most likely be let go, but the contracts of Alan Branch, Jason Jones and Steven Hauschka will need to be addressed.

Branch, Jones and Hauschka are all potential franchise tag candidates. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the estimated salary for a franchised defensive tackle is $8.306 million. Howe goes on to explain that a defensive end's tag number is $10.984 million and a kicker's is $2.926 million.

An incredibly small number compared to the first two. Which is why 710 ESPN Seattle believes Hauschka will most likely be Seattle's franchise player in 2013. If this ends up being the case, his cap number will jump up to $2.926 million from his 2012 salary of $1.260 million.

A nice little boost for a guy who went 24-of-27 on field-goal attempts last year. All three of his misses came on kicks from 50 yards plus. For his career, Hauschka is only 4-of-10 from 50 yards out, which may ultimately question his long-term viability considering the NFL has been hit with a new wave of long-range kickers the past couple years.

However, having the ability to pick up guys like Blair Walsh, Greg Zuerlein and Justin Tucker as rookies doesn't happen every year. It's doubtful that the 2013 draft class will provide as many good kicking prospects as the 2012 class did.

Ultimately, the tag for Hauschka in 2013 means they don't want to secure him long-term because of his inability to kick from 50 yards out, or it means they are okay with paying him a larger salary until they find their quote, unquote guy who can do it all.

Who knows, even though the kicking class as a whole may not be as strong in 2013, Pete Carroll and company may have their eye on one particular guy come April. Carroll wouldn't be scared to franchise his current kicker and draft another one in the same year.

His love for competition is what gave Russell Wilson the opportunity to start in 2012. The same could ring true for the kicker or any other position in 2013. Some of the kicking names to watch out for at the NFL Scouting Combine are Caleb Sturgis, Dustin Hopkins and Quinn Sharp.

All three players had very strong, accurate legs at the collegiate level. Sturgis was arguably the best kicker in the SEC and dominated the East-West Shrine game by consistently nailing kicks in the mid-50s with ease, according to Walter Football.

Hopkins is an ACC kicker from Florida State who has wavered between the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked kicker spot since his junior year. His strong performance at this year's Senior Bowl helped him narrow the gap with Sturgis, and hitting field goals from 52, 53 and 55 yards away during the season couldn't have hurt either.

It's also worth mentioning he drilled a 60-yarder during Florida State's spring game back in April. Both Hopkins and Sturgis are labeled as day-three picks, but I wouldn't expect them off the board until at least Round 7. Zuerlein and Walsh were sixth-round picks, and neither of the top-two prospects this year match their abilities.

Drop a line below and tell me what you're thinking the Seahawks should do. Should they franchise Hauschka and bring in competition, or are you happy with Hauschka and think they should leave the position as it is for 2013?