K.J. Wright has $27 million new reasons to be smiling as widely as he was before practice Thursday.
“I had a number in my head that I wanted to sign, and they actually exceeded that number,” the Seahawks’ fourth-year outside linebacker said of the four-year, $27 million contract extension he signed Wednesday night.
It’s one the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2011 first began discussing with him this spring.
“This is big,” Wright said. “Every time a player gets drafted he looks forward to his big, big day. You know, most people don’t get to see this. I am blessed to be healthy and play good and reach this point.
“I can’t get comfortable with this. This is only the beginning.”
When the Seahawks traded wide receiver Percy Harvin and his $11 million annual contract to the New York Jets in October — and, more to the point, got out of Harvin’s big cap hits in future years — the idea was to re-up more of their foundation guys soon.
Wright’s deal is more proof the Seahawks have the salary cap room to do that — and more. Quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner are Seattle’s next priorities for new deals.
“In the offseason, we identified K.J. as one of our core players moving forward and aimed to keep him as a part of the Seahawks family for a long time,” general manager John Schneider said. “The timing of this signing gives us the ability to keep as many of our core players together as we possibly can.
“Since Day One, K.J. has been a true professional in his daily approach.”
Wright feels — and now sees — the team’s vested faith in the youth and continuity of Seattle’s defense, and thus the entire Seahawks franchise. It has won 10 regular-season games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in team history.
“I was talking to John Schneider about that, too. We just play so well together and we get along so good, we’ve just got to keep these guys around,” Wright said. “It only makes sense to have guys you drafted here to just keep growing.
“I’m glad that they chose me to stick around.”
Wright has impressed the Seahawks with his selflessness playing primarily outside linebacker and then in the middle the last couple seasons when Bobby Wagner’s been injured.
“K.J. is the epitome of a team guy,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We are excited to reward a player of his caliber for all the hard work he has put in over the years to become an important piece of our defense.”
Wright believes his deal — after the post-Super Bowl contract extensions last offseason for Earl Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman, plus Kam Chancellor’s following the 2012 season — shows Schneider and Carroll are men of their word.
“They pretty much tell you how they are going to take care of and handle guys,” Wright said. “It was my turn.”
Wilson’s and Wagner’s turns are likely next. Per the league’s winter and spring schedule confirmed this week, beginning Dec. 29 clubs may renegotiate or extend the rookie contract of a player they selected in the 2012 draft, as Wilson and Wagner both were.
Wilson is playing the third season of his four-year, $2.99 million rookie contract signed after he was Seattle’s third-round draft pick in 2012. The Seahawks are likely to move on an extension for the face of their franchise following this season, before that final 2015 season of his original deal. And he could command $15-$20 million per season, given he owns a Super Bowl ring and holds the NFL record for regular-season wins for a quarterback in the first three seasons of a career, at 34. He just passed Dan Marino with last week’s win over San Francisco.
ESPN reported this week that the league sent teams a memorandum informing them that Wilson has decided to end his co-representation arrangement with Bus Cook and baseball agent Mark Rodgers to become solely represented, most likely by Rodgers.
Wagner has proven himself this season to be one of the fastest, most instinctive and invaluable linebackers in the league. Once he returned last month from missing five games with a broken bone in a foot tendon and torn foot ligament, Wagner sparked the historic four-game run of defensive stinginess the Seahawks are taking into Sunday’s night showdown for the NFC West title at Arizona.
Wagner’s rookie contract of four years and $4.3 million he signed after being the Seahawks’ second-round pick in 2012 ends after next season. Seattle is likely to act before that, in order to ward off any chance of a free-agency scenario. The team knows his reputation around the league as being one of the NFL’s top two middle linebackers is expanding almost by the week.
As for Wright, his original four-year contract with the Seahawks was due to end after this season. It paid him a total of just over $2.5 million. He said the Seahawks first approached him this spring on a contract extension, but that as the year went on he began worrying it might not happen. As the weeks passed, he began considering what his worth might be on the free-agent market, though he said he always wanted to remain a Seahawk.
He said it wasn’t until Tuesday, the day before he signed his new deal, that the worry it wouldn’t get done subsided.
Wright has started 54 of 58 games since Seattle drafted him in the fourth round out of Mississippi State in 2011. He’s made 333 tackles with 61/2 sacks, one interception, 14 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his career. He has started three of four career postseason games, with 25 tackles and two pass breakups in the playoffs.
“When I first got here, I wasn’t that good. They didn’t expect too much out of me, I don’t think, when they drafted me,” Wright said. “I’ve come a long way, I believe, in my mind. Starting multiple positions, just playing really good football. I give a lot of credit to (Seahawks linebackers coach Ken) Norton and all my teammates with me. Those good guys made me better.”
Norton sounded like a proud papa Thursday to see Wright all grown up — and newly minted.
“It’s good to see the good guys; the good guys finish first,” Norton said after practice.
So what’s going to be the first purchase with his new money, what could prove to be a 10-fold raise should he realize all of his nonguaranteed contract through the 2018 season? Teammate Chancellor poked his head through reporters to ask Wright that on Wednesday.
Wright said he is going to buy mother Jacqueline Wright, still living back in his childhood home in Olive Branch, Mississippi, an Infiniti SUV or sedan. She’s always wanted one or the other. He’d also like to buy her a new house, but the Infinity is what she’s wanted for years.
“It ain’t going to be for me,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got to hook Mama up with somethin’.”
Three-fifths of the starting offensive line remained out for the second consecutive practice day: LT Russell Okung (bruised lung), C Max Unger (high-ankle sprain, twisted knee) and RG J.R. Sweezy (ankle). That’s not the best news days before Arizona’s blitzes swarm at them; the Cardinals sacked QB Russell Wilson seven times in Seattle’s 19-3 home win last month. If Sweezy and Unger can’t play, look for Patrick Lewis at center and perhaps backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre at guard. … WR and kickoff returner Paul Richardson was a new addition to the injury list. He missed practice with a hamstring injury. … RB Marshawn Lynch (back), TE Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and DE Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) missed practice for the second consecutive day. Of those three, Lynch’s absence was more rest — and on par with his regular-season routine between games. … The noteworthy addition to the Cardinals’ injury list was QB Drew Stanton, listed as “limited” with his knee ligament injuries from last week’s win at St. Louis that are expected to have him out almost a month. Arizona has already said third-stringer Ryan Lindley would start against the Seahawks.