Looking to get ahead of the curve, the Seattle Seahawks signed kick return specialist Leon Washington to a four-year, $12.5 million contract ahead of the lockout. The thinking was intuitive: Use Washington as a game-breaking return-man, hope he takes a couple to the house each year and, perhaps, occasionally use him in the backfield. But on Tuesday, the NFL changed its rules to the direct detriment of both Washington and the Seahawks, who invested heavily in the return game.
In the interest of safety, the NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard-line from the 30-yard-line, decreasing the chances of breaking a return or even getting a shot at a return.
So kickoffs will now start at the 35-yard line which likely means more touchbacks. For the NFL's purposes, that means less returns, which in turn may mean less injuries. Kickoff returns are one of the most dangerous parts of the game and player safety has been an emphasis in recent years.
While I agree kickoffs are the most violent play in the NFL, they're also the most exciting. Fans love the chance to see a player break a kickoff and out-run the coverage team for a touchdown. Wasn't it fun watching Washington do it twice against San Diego last year?
Now, our chances are severely decreased and that $12.5 million spent on Washington looks like less of a good deal. Sure, he'll probably still earn his money, but the chances of him even being able to return a kick are significantly lower today than yesterday.