Seattle Seahawks

What does Mychal Kendricks’ sentencing postponement mean for Seahawks? And for K.J. Wright?

After an eight-week suspension, Mychal Kendricks says his return to the NFL was productive

Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks discusses his return to the NFL after Seattle's 21-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
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Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks discusses his return to the NFL after Seattle's 21-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Seahawks aren’t going to know Mychal Kendricks’ playing status for 2019 as early as they thought they were this offseason.

What’s that mean for K.J. Wright?

That’s an obvious, immediate question emerging from Wednesday’s news Kendricks’ sentencing in federal court in Pennsylvania for insider trading has been postponed from Jan. 25 to April.

The instant reaction is this news isn’t good for the Seahawks.

Wright, the team’s Pro Bowl veteran who plays the same position as Kendricks, has an expiring contract. Unless he re-signs with Seattle before he will become a free agent when the market opens with the new league year March 13. The Seahawks had believed they would know well before free agency begins whether Kendricks was getting months or years in prison—or perhaps a suspended sentence and no time in jail.

Sentencing guidelines in federal court in the eastern Pennsylvania where his case is suggest 2 1/2 years for Kendricks’ crime. Some there believe he will strike a plea bargain with prosecutors.

Now the Seahawks must wait until after the free-agency period begins to know if there is a chance they can re-sign Kendricks to play for them in 2019. He played in four games for Seattle this past season. His first of three starts for the Seahawks came in week three against Dallas. That was days after he signed with Seattle on Sept. 14.

New fill-in weakside LB Mychal Kendricks emotional after starting his Seahawks’ debut at Chicago while facing prison time.

Coach Pete Carroll said last month after Kendricks went on injured reserve the Seahawks want to re-sign him for 2019.

“It’s been such a difficult season for Mike. My heart goes out to him,” Carroll said Dec. 12. “He wants to be a part of this thing so badly. But he doesn’t get to this time around.

“We’ll look forward to getting him back next time and keeping him with us.”

The Super Bowl starter for Philadelphia last year would have started 10 of the 11 games Wright missed for Seattle in 2018. But Kendricks served an eight-game NFL suspension from the beginning of October into December. Then upon his return he injured his knee and leg starting against Minnesota. That put him on injured reserve and required surgery.

With Kendricks’ status in limbo, the Seahawks may revisit what they want to do with the 29-year-old Wright.

The longest-tenured Seahawks defender has been a 50-50 proposition at best to re-sign with the only team he’s known, and for whom he’s won a Super Bowl and been selected to the Pro Bowl since Seattle drafted him in 2011.

Wright just saw what the Seahawks did to Earl Thomas. The three-time All-Pro, at the same age as Wright, also has recent, major injuries and an expiring deal. Seattle let Thomas’ play out his contract without giving him the money or trade he demanded. While doing so he broke his leg in October. Thomas’ time in Seattle is seemingly over--as indicated by him flipping off his team’s sideline as he exited the field on the back of a cart in Arizona in his last Seahawks game Sept. 30.

Wright told me Jan. 5 in the minutes following the Seahawks’ season-ending playoff loss at Dallas the team had yet to give him any indication its wants to re-sign him.

29-year-old linebacker K.J. Wright wants to return to Seahawks now that his contract has ended. But he knows the NFL can be a cold business.

Two days later, Carroll said this when asked about Wright: “He’s been a fantastic player for us for years in every way. In every way he’s been a leader, he’s been tough, he’s been here, he’s been consistent. His messaging, everything he stands for is what we love about him and we’d love for him to be here throughout.”

Last week, Wright told former Seahawks teammate Cliff Avril on Seattle’s KJR-AM radio he is planning on no new Seahawks deal and on becoming a free agent in March.

The Seahawks had three starters at weakside linebacker in 2018 while Wright missed 11 of 16 games following knee surgery in August: Kendricks, second-year backup middle linebacker Austin Calitro and, briefly, rookie Shaquem Griffin.

They drafted the remarkable Griffin last spring with at least an eye toward him replacing Wright as their starting weakside linebacker next to All-Pro middle man Bobby Wagner. But Griffin got benched 15 minutes into his first game, his first and only start on defense, because he wasn’t staying in his assigned run gaps and was trying to make too many plays outside the calls’ designs. He got only four snaps at linebacker the rest of his debut season. Nothing indicates yet that Griffin is ready to take over for Wright to begin the 2019 season.

So do the Seahawks bring back Kendricks? Do they come back to Wright and re-sign him? Are they going to go with Calitro in fuller role at outside linebacker? Is there another option on the horizon?

Those questions are more difficult to answer with Kendricks’ sentencing postponement.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.

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