Seattle kicks off post-Rouen era, signs rookie punter

Seventh-round draft choice Ryan Plackemeier, who is expected to fill the vacancy created by the Seattle Seahawks' recent release of veteran punter Tom Rouen, has signed a four-year contract with the defending NFC champions.

A former Wake Forest standout and the 239th player selected in this year's draft, Plackemeier signed a four-year, $1.652 million contract. The deal includes a $42,000 signing bonus and minimum base salaries of $275,000 (for 2006), $360,000 (2007), $445,000 (2008) and $530,000 (2009). By reaching predetermined performance levels, Plackemeier can trigger an "escalator," which would raise his salary in 2009.

Plackemeier is the first of the Seahawks' six draft choices to complete a contract.

The signing of a seventh-round draft choice typically isn't critical to any team, but the release of Rouen, a 13-year veteran who punted for Seattle the last three seasons, leaves the Seahawks without an experienced player at the position. Rouen signed a one-year contract with San Francisco last week.

Despite a high-powered offense that led the NFL in scoring in 2005, the Seahawks still had 80 punts last season, higher than the league average.

Journeyman Gabe Lindstrom is the only other punter on the Seattle roster. Lindstrom, 30, has participated in five NFL training camps but has yet to punt in a regular-season game. He played for Cologne in NFL Europe this spring and posted a 41.6-yard gross average and a net average of 36.2 yards.

Regarded by most league scouts as possessing the strongest leg in the 2006 draft class, Plackemeier is a huge punter (6-feet-3, 253 pounds) who explodes into the ball. In four college seasons, Plackemeier had a 45.3-yard average on 270 punts. He averaged a career-best 47.2 yards in 2005. In his final two seasons, Plackemeier improved his proficiency as a directional punter, but his strong suit is still his power.

Plackemeier can also handle kickoff duties and, at Wake Forest, was occasionally called upon for long field goals and on extra points. He converted all 27 extra-point tries and 9-of-18 field-goal attempts.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.