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Seahawks release longest-tenured player, punter Jon Ryan

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 20, 2018, 7:55 p.m.

Seattle Seahawks’ Jon Ryan runs off the field after an NFL football practice Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Renton, Wash .The Seahawks have released Ryan, who had been the longest-tenured member of the team. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Seattle Seahawks’ Jon Ryan runs off the field after an NFL football practice Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Renton, Wash .The Seahawks have released Ryan, who had been the longest-tenured member of the team. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

The Seattle Seahawks settled their kicking positions for the 2018 season Monday, in the process closing the Seattle career of the team’s longest-tenured player – punter Jon Ryan. Seattle also waived kicker Jason Myers, meaning rookie Michael Dickson will be the punter for 2018 and Sebastian Janikowski the placekicker.

Ryan first revealed the news Monday morning, announcing via Twitter that he had been released by the team, losing out on the punting battle to Dickson a move many had seen coming since the moment the Seahawks traded up in the draft last April to draft Texas punter Dickson, who won the Ray Guy Award in 2017 as the nation’s best punter.

A source said Ryan, 36, met with the Seahawks on Sunday following Saturday night’s loss against the Chargers and it was “mutually” agreed that he would be released now since he wasn’t going to make the final roster, and being released now allowed him a few weeks to find a new team before the regular season begins. Ryan confirmed that information on Monday in an interview with Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times.

Officially, Ryan had his contract terminated, which makes him an immediate free agent, able to sign with any other team.

The waiving of Myers means that the 40-year-old Janikowski will be Seattle’s kicker in 2018. Janikowski was viewed as the favorite, due in part to a $600,000 guarantee in his contract – Myers did not have any guarantees. The Seahawks filled the two open roster spots to re-sign cornerback Eljah Battle and receiver Marvin Bracy, who were both in training camp with Seattle.

Ryan came to Seattle after being waived by Green Bay in 2008, and he played in 15 games that season – the last for Mike Holmgren as coach – and had taken part in every Seahawks game since.

He was the only player left on the roster who pre-dated the arrival of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. Ryan’s departure means just eight players remain on the roster from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl championship-winning team following the 2013 season. But only six of those eight have been with Seattle continuously – Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. (Chancellor won’t play this season but remains on the roster on the reserve list). Byron Maxwell and J.R. Sweezy played for other teams at some point after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl season but have since returned to Seattle.

In his farewell to Seattle tweet, Ryan wrote, “It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to play in this great city of Seattle for the past 10 years. I never wanted this day to come but I knew it would come someday. Even though I’m leaving, I will always be a Seahawk.”

Ryan continued: “… More than anything, I want to thank the 12’s. You embraced a pale skinned, red headed Canadian with a speech impediment and made him feel like a super star. I will forever be grateful for each and every one of you.’’

Ryan leads Seattle in just about every punting category, including career average at 44.74. His self-deprecating humor coupled with a serious approach to his job made him popular with fans and teammates alike – he was voted a special teams captain in each of the past four years. But in 2017, the Seahawks had some struggles in the punting game down the stretch, with long returns helping turn the tide in losses to Jacksonville and the Rams. Ryan had another one of his punts returned for a 72-yard touchdown Saturday against the Chargers.

That and Ryan’s age coupled with a high salary for a punter – he signed a four-year deal worth $10 million in 2016 that put him among the top 10 highest-paid punters in the NFL – made it almost a given the Seahawks would eventually make a change at the position.

Any doubts evaporated over the last few weeks as Dickson performed well in the preseason – through two weeks, Dickson is the highest-rated punter in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. Releasing Ryan means the Seahawks will clear $2.6 million in salary cap space for the 2018 season. Dickson has a salary of $480,000 this season with a cap charge of $552,538.

Dickson had also become Janikowski’s holder last week, which seemed like a telling sign because Dickson had little prior experience as a holder, while Ryan had done most of the work with Janikowski earlier in camp. Janikowski was perceived as the leader for the placekicking job all along.

Waiving Myers means Dickson can now concentrate solely on perfecting his holding with the left-footed Janikowski instead of also holding for the right-footed Myers.

Seattle signed Myers almost immediately after the 2017 season as a possible replacement for Blair Walsh, whom Seattle did not consider bringing back after he had critical misses in three late-season games. Seattle then signed Janikowski in April after the Raiders decided not to bring him back. Janikowski missed all of the 2017 season with a back injury but has been healthy with the Seahawks.

Ryan said early in training camp that he knew his days were numbered after the Seahawks drafted Dickson. Ryan said he’d suspected the Seahawks might add a punter this year.

“I just had a feeling,” he said. “Been around this game a long time and sometimes you just start getting those feelings. And sometimes they are wrong. But I just felt like in this case I kind of felt like that’s what they were going to do.”

Ryan said he then vowed to Seahawks general manager John Schneider that he wanted to stick around in Seattle and would do everything he could to make the decision look bad.

“I told him I love him and he has no need to apologize and one way or the other I was going to make him look stupid,” Ryan said.

Ryan will now have to do that elsewhere as he now has a few weeks to try to find a new home and continue playing in the NFL.

One possibility is Buffalo, which lost punter Cory Carter to an ACL tear this week. Buffalo, though, also has five-year veteran Colton Schmidt on its roster. Still, the Bills might be interested in evaluating Ryan and reuniting him with former Seahawks kicker Stephen Hauschka, who signed with the Bills prior to the 2017 season.

Ryan said that when he found out Seattle had drafted Dickson, there was an immediate round of tequila shots ordered.

He spent his first day as a non-Seahawk in similar fashion, tweeting that he was headed to Jay Berry’s Cafe in Renton to play pull tabs, and inviting anyone who wanted to join him.

Ryan told the Times’ Mike Vorel while at Jay Berry’s that he couldn’t have asked for a better career than he had in Seattle.

“It’s been a bit of a love affair between me and the city and the city and myself,” Ryan said. “It’s been pretty cool. It’s one of those things where I could have never expected (to be embraced like this) and never thought something like that would happen. The way it’s happened in the last 10 years is pretty cool, and I’m pretty fortunate and very happy with how things have gone.”

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