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Walsh missed a likely game-winning, 27-yard field goal against the Seahawks with less than a minute left in the first round of the playoffs 13 months prior while a member of the Vikings. The Vikings lost that playoff game 10-9 and Walsh was the villain for Minnesota fans.
“He was a guy that we call reserve-future signings. He was still out there,” Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “A number of teams wanted to sign him. We brought him in, worked him out, got a deal done. It’s kind like checking that box and, OK, take a deep breath and we can move on to what’s next. You go into free agency, you have Plan A but there are 25 other letters in the alphabet. We’ve got like a whole slew of things going on.”
The deep breath came because signing Walsh at least gave the Seahawks some insurance at the position with their kicker, Steven Hauschka, set to become a free agent. The logical line of thinking is that the Walsh signing paves the exit of Hauschka from Seattle, but Schneider said that’s not necessarily the case.
“No, it doesn’t mean that. I think it’s just really, quite honestly, it’s an aspect of unrestricted free agency,” he said. “You have all your boxes to check. I know it seems kind of cold. We take it personally, because we have such a personal relationship with these guys. Steven’s been phenomenal for us, has done a lot of great things for the Seahawks. We had an opportunity to kind of check a box in free agency with Blair. We’ll be looking at somebody else to come in and compete, as well, too. It could be Steven. I’m not sure.”
Competition for Walsh is something the Vikings never had. That includes the 2016 offseason, when there were plenty of questions about how Walsh would handle the scrutiny of missing such a short field goal attempt in such a big game.
The team avoided having Walsh kick any 27-yard field goals during the offseason and continued to show him immense support, even during his struggles during the first half of the 2016 season. But, eventually, with four missed field goals in 16 attempts and four missed extra points in 19 attempts, the Vikings cut ties with Walsh and signed free-agent kicker Kai Forbath.
Walsh remained a street free agent until the Seahawks came calling with an offer in February. But not before they had internal discussions about his mental state after a trying year under the microscope in Minnesota.
“It was a discussion, yeah. I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t,” Schneider said when asked how much Walsh’s mental state factored into discussions before signing him. “But he’s a very confident guy. He was on his visit. He’s had … the year before he was a Pro Bowler, I believe. He’s gone on a streak where he’s gone 17-for-17 and, you know, he’s got a lot of talent. There are certain boxes he had to check before we moved forward with it.”