If punter Jon Ryan seeks a bigger payday, will Seahawks give in or is it time to move on?
Among the Seahawks 18 unrestricted free agents this offseason, Jon Ryan might not evoke the most consternation, but he may just be one of the more intriguing, and important personnel decisions facing the team over the next two months.
Ryan just finished his 8th season in Seattle, and he’s been so good for so long that it’s easy to take him from granted. We’re all accustomed to seeing him boom long punts to flip field position when the Hawks are fighting to get out of their own end, and also time and again pin the opponent deep by nailing kicks inside the 10 yard line.
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At age 34, Ryan may be seeking a bigger deal to finish out his career, one that might put him into the upper tier of NFL punters. But will the Seahawks pay top dollar for a punter, especially in light of their other salary cap priorities? And perhaps more to the point, does he deserve it?
First, let’s consider that it’s a big leap from what Ryan is used to making, and what the top punters in the league are currently pulling in. Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt is the highest-earning punter in the NFL, raking in $3.75 million a year. Ryan just finished up a deal paying him $1.5 million annually, and has never made more than $1.58 million. His salary placed him 15th overall on the list of highest paid punters in 2015.
Does he have a case to be paid more? With Ryan, his consistency and likable off-field personality may obscure statistical reality. He’s good, but he’s nowhere near the NFL’s top performers.
In 2015, Ryan ranked 30th in the NFL in net average, and 19th in punts downed inside the 20. Consequently, Colquitt ranked 9th and 3rd, respectively, in the same categories.
So on it’s surface, it would seem Ryan doesn’t have much bargaining power if he’s indeed seeking to join the group of 12 punters currently making $2 million or more per year. He seems to be happy in Seattle, and the Seahawks have shown they value special teams and are willing to pay their specialists, as kicker Steven Hauschka is set to be paid $2,7 million in 2016.
However, Ryan’s case may be helped somewhat when you consider that he’s one of only four of the top 20 paid punters to be available in free agency this spring. If a team is looking to upgrade at that position, they may be willing to throw more money Ryan’s way than Seattle is.
If that’s the case, there are always options in the draft…. much cheaper options. Utah’s Tom Hackett is the highest rated punter in this years draft, according to DraftScout, followed by Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser and Syracue’s Riley Dixon. Freshly drafted punters can expect to be paid around $500,000 in their first year.
More than likely, Ryan will be back in Seattle next year, but given the financial reality of managing a championship-caliber roster, and the possibility that Ryan may be looking for a bigger deal, it’s possible we could see a change at the punter position.