Seahawks 2010 Roster Analysis: Specialists

The Seahawks signed punter Jon Ryan (kneeling) to a six-year contract after the regular season, locking him up through the 2015 season. To keep the band together, the Seahawks may use the franchise tag on kicker Olindo Mare.

#9 – Jon Ryan
Age: 28
Signed through: 2015
2010 salary: $1M
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $1.32M

Arguably the Seahawks' Most Valuable Player in 2009, Ryan posted a career-best 38.7 yard net average on a career-high 88 punts, putting 28 of his boots inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Ryan was a Pro Bowl alternate last season.

#10 – Olindo Mare
Age: 36
Signed through: Unrestricted Free Agent

Mare once again beat out Brandon Coutu for a roster spot, and was 24-for-26 (92.3%) with both of his misses coming in a Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears. Mare's 22 touchbacks ranked 3rd in the NFL in 2009, and Mare was an alternate for the Pro Bowl.

#45 – Kevin Houser
Age: 32
Signed through: Unrestricted Free Agent

After Bryan Pittman injured his finger while moving before last year's training camp, the long-time New Orleans Saints long-snapper signed with the Seahawks and had a strong season up until suffering a collapsed lung in Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Houser chipped in with one special teams tackle before he was placed on injured reserve.

#49 – Jeff Robinson
Age: 39 (turns 40 on February 20)
Signed through: Unrestricted Free Agent

When Houser was placed on IR, the Seahawks once again broke the "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass" case they've kept Robinson in the last few years. Robinson handled the snapping duties for the final two weeks of the regular season.

#N/A – Matt Overton
Age: 24
Signed through: 2011
2010 salary: $320,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $320,000

A former player at Western Washington University, Overton spent part of the 2007 off-season with the Seahawks. He's also played for the Tri-Cities Fever of the Indoor Football League and spent last season with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League.

#N/A – Pat MacDonald
Age: 27 (turns 28 on February 20)
Signed through: 2011
2010 salary: $320,000
2010 cap number (approx., if applicable): $320,000

MacDonald has spent time with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, but for the last three seasons has been spent in the Canadian Football League, playing two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders and last season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

2010 Outlook

Since joining the Seahawks one week into the 2008 regular season, Ryan has a net average of 38.6 yards per punt, and has dropped nearly a third of his punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Seattle locked him up through the 2015 season with a six-year, $9.1 million dollar contract at the conclusion of the '09 regular season.

Mare is an unrestricted free agent, and if the two sides can't reach a multi-year deal, it wouldn't be overly surprising to see the Seahawks use the franchise tag on the soon-to-be 37-year old kicker, which this off-season is worth $2.814 million dollars. The Seahawks have until February 25 to use the tag. 

Other free agent kickers who may be available this off-season are Sebastien Janikowski, Shayne Graham, and Jeff Reed, though the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers are working on deals for Janikowski and Reed. Graham's future in Cincinnati is unclear after a shaky performance in their Wild Card Playoffs loss to the New York Jets.

Seattle signed a pair of young and untested long-snappers this week, but this doesn't necessarily mean both will be on the 80-man training camp roster. The more likely scenario is that one of the two will join an experienced veteran in a training camp competition for a spot on the 53-man roster.

The Seahawks do not have a "return specialist", but that is an area of the team that could use improvement.

Seattle ranked 19th in punt return average (7.5 yards) and 21st in kick return average (21.9 yards). Nate Burleson handled the punt return duties much of the time in 2009, averaging 8.5 yards on 30 returns, but he's a free agent this off-season. Even if Burleson does come back, he wasn't the dangerous return threat he was during the '07 season.

Justin Forsett backed up Burleson, averaging 5.8 yards on 16 returns, and was the primary kick returner, averaging 24 yards on 18 returns. As elusive a runner as Forsett is, he doesn't have the top-end speed to be a dynamic kick returner. Louis Rankin and Ben Obomanu showed flashes of possessing that kind of speed, but when Seattle needed a boost in the return game, they turned to Josh Wilson, a starting cornerback.

The overall need for more team speed is evident in Seattle's kick and punt coverage units, which ranked 19th (kick) and 30th (punt) in the NFL last season. Less than half of Ryan's 88 punts were returnable, but those that were, went for an average of 11.1 yards per return. Some of the struggles of the coverage units can be attributable to a player former special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven was counting on to lead the coverage units, linebacker David Hawthorne, was pressed into starting duties on defense.

A general manager determined to stock the roster with young, big, fast, and physical players should help the Seahawks improve on special teams.

In addition to writing for, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here. Top Stories