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Seahawks sign kicker Jason Myers as replacement candidate for Blair Walsh

Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers (2) reacts to missing a field goal late in the the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 15, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Seahawks signed Myers to a futures contract Wednesday. (Stephen B. Morton / AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers (2) reacts to missing a field goal late in the the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 15, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Seahawks signed Myers to a futures contract Wednesday. (Stephen B. Morton / AP)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – It didn’t take long for the Seahawks to begin moving on from Blair Walsh as their kicker as Seattle on Wednesday signed free agent Jason Myers to a futures contract.

Myers, who spent all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons with Jacksonville and the first six games of this year before being released, visited with the Seahawks earlier in the week and agreed to a deal.

Signing a futures contract means that Myers will officially become part of the team when the new league year begins on March 14.

Walsh had a one-year contract with Seattle, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent in March, and it is expected he will not be back with the Seahawks after he hit only 21-29 field goals in 2017, including missing a potential game-winner from 48 yards out on Sunday against Arizona, three in a 17-14 loss to Washington, and a 52-yarder that could have tied a game against Atlanta.

Myers, 26, played at Marist Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before making Jacksonville’s roster as an undrafted free agent in 2015.

Known for his leg strength, Myers was 64-of-79 on field goals (81 percent) and 76-of-88 on point-after attempts (86.4 percent) in 38 games with Jacksonville before being released in October following three misses that proved critical in two losses (though all from 52 yards or longer). Myers was 11-15 this season before being waived but 10-11 from inside 50 yards.

Myers has had workouts with the Chargers and Bengals, among others, since his release.

That Myers comes with a background similar to that of Walsh – being waived the previous season after a few critical misses – might elicit some skepticism among fans.

But Seattle also will likely continue to look at kickers in the offseason and potentially sign more than one to have competition in training camp after the struggles this season with Walsh, who was the only kicker Seattle had in camp in 2017 after signing as a free agent last February.

And the Seahawks will also hope that if they go with Myers that it turns out more like it did with Stephen Hauschka than with Walsh.

While Hauschka is remembered now for a successful six-year run in Seattle in which he set a team record for highest field goal percentage in his career – he made 175 of 197 attempts from 2011-16, 88.83 – he had been waived six times by five different teams before signing with the Seahawks.

Seattle decided not to try to match offers they figured Hauschka would get when he became a free agent last year, signing Walsh as a pre-emptive replacement in February to a one-year contract worth $1.1 million. Hauschka then signed a three-year with the Bills worth up to $.8.85 million with $4 million guaranteed.

Seattle on Wednesday also signed fullback Jalston Fowler to a futures deal. Fowler, who played much of the past three years with Tennessee before being released in December, was on the Seahawks’ practice squad at the end of the 2017 season.

Fowler’s signing means seven of the nine players on Seattle’s practice squad at the end of the season have been signed to futures deals. The two that have not are linebackers Kache Palacio and Jason Thompson. Palacio played at Washington State and Thompson is a Kennedy High grad.

Fowler’s signing gives Seattle two fullbacks on its roster. Tre Madden played that spot for eight games this season before being injured. But Madden remains under contract for the 2018 season.

The signing of Myers could be the first step in Seattle reshaping its kicking units in 2018.

Visiting the Seahawks at the same time as Myers was punter is Jeff Locke, who played at UCLA and has been with the Vikings, Colts and Lions in an NFL career that dates to 2013.

Unlike Myers, Locke did not sign. But that he visited indicates Seattle is exploring options for possibly replacing veteran punter Jon Ryan, whose contract could make him vulnerable to being a salary cap casualty in 2018.

Ryan’s contract calls for cap hits of $3.2 million and $3.6 million the next two seasons with Seattle able to save $2 million and $3 million in those two years by releasing him – Ryan, who turned 36 in November, counted as just a $1.6 million cap hit the last two years after signing a four-year contract worth a total of $10 million in the spring of 2016.

Locke, an All-Pac-12 punter as a senior at UCLA in 2012, was a fifth-round pick of, yep, the Vikings, in 2013 and played for Minnesota from 2013-16 before signing with the Colts as a free agent last March. But despite signing a deal that included $1.25 million guaranteed, he was released by the Colts in August after losing the job to Rigoberto Sanchez.

He then signed with the Lions as an injury replacement for Sam Martin before being waived after five games when Martin returned.

Locke averaged 45.3 yards per punt this year with the Lions with a net average of 42.2 that would have ranked sixth if he had enough attempts to qualify.

Ryan had a season that was statistically pretty much in line with all of his others with the Seahawks, averaging 45.0 yards per punt with a net of 38.8.

Ryan is Seattle’s longest-tenured player, joining the team in what was Mike Holmgren’s final year with the Seahawks and is the only player left on the roster who pre-dates the arrival of Pete Carroll in 2010.

Ryan has played in 159 straight games, which is a Seahawks’ record, and is the franchise career leader in many punting categories including punts (770), punt yards (34,480) and longest punt (77).

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