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Originally published Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 6:19 PM

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Seahawks use franchise tag on kicker Olindo Mare

Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare receives franchise tag, will make $2.8 million next season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Kicker Olindo Mare has stared down both competition and criticism in Seattle.

For two training camps, he competed for the kicking job against Brandon Coutu, who had never attempted an NFL field goal. Last season, after missing two field-goal attempts in a Week 3 loss to Chicago, coach Jim Mora labeled Mare's performance "absolutely unacceptable."

Mare never missed again, and on Thursday, the Seahawks made a multimillion dollar promise to him by designating him their franchise player. The designation prevents Mare from becoming an unrestricted free agent, meaning one less position the Seahawks must worry about in their rebuilding process, but the tag comes with a one-year contract offer of $2.8 million, which would nearly double Mare's salary from a year ago.

The franchise tag obligates Seattle to make Mare a one-year contract offer equal to the average of the five highest-paid kickers in the league. Not a bad year's work for a 36-year-old kicker who made $1.5 million last year, his second season with the team.

All Mare has done in his two years with the Seahawks is make 48 of the 53 field goals he's attempted and consistently boot kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, a huge edge for Seattle's kick-coverage units. He made his final 21 field-goal attempts last season, breaking the previous franchise record of 16 straight set by Norm Johnson.

Every NFL team has the option of applying a franchise tag to one player who would otherwise be an unrestricted free agent.

A franchise player may still negotiate with other teams as a free agent, but there is a severe restriction for a team trying to sign such a player. If he were to sign an offer sheet from another team, the Seahawks would have the right to match the offer and retain him or receive two first-round picks as compensation. Mare is still free to sign a long-term contract with Seattle, but applying the franchise tag douses the interest he would have received in free agency. No team is going to give up two first-round picks for the right to sign a free-agent kicker.

This is the second time in four years Seattle has used its franchise tag on a kicker. The Seahawks applied the tag to Josh Brown in 2007. After playing one more season in Seattle, he signed with St. Louis.

Leroy Hill was designated Seattle's franchise player last season, but the tag was removed after the Seahawks drafted linebacker Aaron Curry in April. Hill then re-signed with Seattle.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant was designated Seattle's franchise player in 2008. He subsequently agreed to a long-term deal with the Seahawks.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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