RENTON, Wash. – In his second stint with the Seahawks, the only competition Jason Myers has is himself.
A year ago at this time, Myers was battling veteran Sebastian Janikowski for Seattle’s place-kicking job, a fight he eventually lost when he was waived two games into the preseason.
He was then claimed by the New York Jets, where he went on to revive his career, making 33 of 36 kicks – including an NFL record five of 55 yards or longer – to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl.
A free agent following the season, Myers said it was an easy decision when Seattle called again, searching this time for a replacement for Janikowski instead of competition, offering a four-year deal worth up to $15.45 million to return.
“I definitely had my eye on Seattle the whole time and for them to call us, it was a perfect fit,” Myers said Thursday following the last of the team’s 10 OTAs (organized team activities).
Also perfect were two kicks Myers made to conclude Thursday’s workout during a late-game situational drill, each last-play game winners, each emblematic of how he has performed so well, according to coaches.
“He’s been excellent,” Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider said.
Winners were Janikowski’s specialty a year ago – he hit three kicks on the final play to win games for Seattle, two against Arizona and another against Carolina.
But the rest of his season was a little shaky as he hit 22 of 27 while also missing 3 of 51 point-after attempts. He also twice suffered in-game injuries, including in the wild-card playoff loss at Dallas that forced punter Michael Dickson to take over kicking duties (though he did not attempt a field goal or a PAT).
And turning 41 in March, Janikowski decided to call it a career after 19 seasons, officially announcing his retirement.
All of which led some to wonder why Seattle hadn’t just kept Myers in the first place.
There was little difference between the two in the preseason last year in the two games that Myers was on the roster for – Myers hit field goals of 43 and 33 yards while Janikowski hit a 25-yarder and two extra points.
When Myers was waived, a move that also came on the same day as punter Jon Ryan and which solidified Seattle’s kicking battery for the 2018 season, it was easy to assume Janikowski’s name and contract – he had $600,000 in guarantees while Myers didn’t have any – tipped the scales.
Schneider, though, said that while “a lot goes into’’ roster decisions, Janikowski was also simply the more consistent kicker throughout the entirety of the offseason a year ago.
“We went through it and we documented everything and that was one thing that we did all through OTAs, all through training camp, all the games, we chart every single kick and Jason did get beat out and I think he would be the first to tell you that,” Schneider said. “But I think that made him even better. … I think that all prepared him for where he is today and he’s been great to have back.”
Schneider said that when last season ended and the team began searching for a replacement for Janikowski, Myers “was at the top of my boards. I said, ‘OK, that’s who we would like No. 1.’ ”
Of the competition last year, Myers said “it was fair. They told me to come out here and just compete and that’s what I do. That’s what I was doing last year and what I’m doing this year.”
Myers, though, said working with two holders throughout training camp – Ryan and Michael Dickson – meant that “I didn’t really have my rhythm.’’
That the team had two holders was one reason for making the decision after two games of the preseason so that at that point, the focus could turn to getting the kicking battery of Janikowski and Dickson prepared for the season rather than continuing to compete.
Myers also had little time to lament not winning the Seattle job, as he was claimed by the Jets the next day.
And there, he finally had the kind of season he knew he could.
Myers had been cut by Jacksonville six games into the 2017 season, his third with the team, after starting out the year 11 of 15. That year continued what had been somewhat of a negative arc from making 26 of 30 (86.7%) as a rookie in 2015 (he made the team as a free agent out of Marist after spending a year in the Arena Football League) and then 27 of 34 (79.4%) in 2016.
Myers said he’s made no significant changes along the way, saying “a fresh start’’ helped lead to the success with the Jets.
“I knew what I was capable of and maybe being younger I didn’t see it come to the forefront too quick, but I just kind of kept trusting myself and what I did in the offseason and on a day-to-day basis and it finally came full circle for me,” he said.
As has his Seattle career, where he is now expected to solidify a kicking spot that has gone from Stephen Hauschka in 2016 to Blair Walsh in 2017 and then Janikowski in 2018.
A contract that guarantees him $5.5 million and has significant dead-money hits for 2019 and 2020 essentially assures he will be on the team for the next two years. The Seahawks made clear they think he will stop the merry-go-round that began when Seattle decided not to offer Hauschka a significant contract following the 2016 season (he eventually signed a three-year deal with Buffalo).
But if Myers is feeling any pressure to live up to a contract that makes him the 10th-highest-paid kicker in the NFL – he made just $705,000 last season with the Jets, the same as he would have had he stayed with the Seahawks – as well as the success he had last season, he isn’t letting on.
“Now I know where I can get to and where I’m capable of getting to,” Myers said. “It’s helping push me even more to try and get better.”
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