Matt Hasselbeck's already-demanding job just got tons tougher. So did Mike Holmgren's.
For years, the Seahawks had the comfort of knowing at the end of close games they had Josh Brown and his remarkably accurate kicking leg from long range. Hasselbeck didn't have to heave low-percentage passes into thick coverage down the near the opponent's goal line, to get in closer for a winning field goal.
Holmgren didn't have to call plays to gain huge chunks of yardage in the 2-minute offense. The coach could use draws, screens and short passes, as he likes to throughout the rest of the game, to merely get the ball to an opponent's 35-yard line or so.
So much for all that.
Brown is now in St. Louis after signing a five-year, free-agent contract with the NFC West-rival Rams. Brown gets $14.2 million, with a $4 million signing bonus - the league's largest for a kicker.
``I was kind of nervous about another team in the division and I was like 'I'm going to get massacred by the Seattle fans now.','' Brown said in St. Louis Saturday.
``But it's all part of the game.''
And now part of a Seattle headache.
Brown set a career-high with 127 points last season, sixth most in the league, and made an even 80 percent of his field goal attempts (116-for-145) in five seasons. The Seahawks drafted him in the seventh round in 2003 out of Nebraska.
The Seahawks thought Brown was valuable enough to offer a contract worth $14 million, but for what Brown said was more years and with more back-loaded money that was not guaranteed. Last year, the Seahawks cherished him so much they used their lone franchise-player designation on him, something they were forced to use on Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant this year instead.
Then Seattle re-signed right tackle Sean Locklear. Given the Seahawks had also given free-agent veteran Mike Wahle a five-year contract last month worth a potential $20 million, with $5.5 million in guarantees, they didn't have much left to up their offer to Brown and keep him.
Brown is 13-for-22 on kicks from 50 yards away or longer in his career - including 3-for-5 (60 percent) last season. The league average for success on kicks of that distance was 43 percent last season and 47 percent in 2006.
The bottom line: With Brown, Seattle didn't have to move the ball as far as other teams to make go-ahead kicks late in games. And they weren't as concerned with the prime field position an opponent would get from missing a long kick late in a game. NFL rules give possession to the other team at the spot from which a long missed field goal is kicked, not the line of scrimmage.
Him leaving leaves the Seahawks with three new concerns: Having to move the ball further for game-winning kicks; finding a new kicker to do it; and finding the funds under the salary cap to sign that kicker.
Denver's Jason Elam is the elite kicker remaining in free agency, the one with an accuracy from long-range even more proven than Brown's. Elam is second all-time with 36 career field goals from 50 yards or more.
No. 1 is the ageless Morten Anderson. The 47-year-old, who was 25-for-28 on all tries last season with Atlanta, has made 40 from that range in his 25-year career. But he has made just one from 50-plus since 2002, in just three tries.
So signing him would not make the jobs of the Seahawks' offense any easier.
Seahawks president and general manager Tim Ruskell said on the eve of Brown leaving that for the team to sign any more free agents, others on the roster would have to be cut - as veteran tackle Tom Ashworth was Friday, saving Seattle $2 million in 2008 base salary.
That could leave the Seahawks trying to sign unemployed kickers off the street or drafting one in April, two more inexpensive routes. But as Seattle may be reminded as it is trying to drive for a winning field goal late in, say, the season opener this September, sometimes you get what you pay for.
And dearly miss what you couldn't.

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