Seattle Seahawks

What K.J. Wright’s $15M extension means to Bobby Wagner, Seahawks’ defense... and the locker room

Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright, right, and his All-Pro middle-linebacker partner Bobby Wagner, left, will play together again in 2019. That’s because Wright signed a two-year contract extension worth up to $15 million on Thursday, instead of leaving in free agency.
Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright, right, and his All-Pro middle-linebacker partner Bobby Wagner, left, will play together again in 2019. That’s because Wright signed a two-year contract extension worth up to $15 million on Thursday, instead of leaving in free agency. AP

One Seahawk is as excited as K.J. Wright that Pro Bowl veteran linebacker is staying with Seattle.

That guy is immensely important to the team’s present, and its future. He is Wright’s best friend on the Seahawks. Has been for the last half-dozen years.

“Couldn’t happen to a better person,” All-Pro Bobby Wagner said Thursday night.

He posted that on his Twitter account, a few hours after Wright signed his two-year contract extension. Wright told The News Tribune Thursday the deal is worth “up to” $15 million, which presumes bonuses for playing time.

Wright, with wide receiver Doug Baldwin the longest-tenured Seahawks, will remain next to Wagner in Seattle’s defense for the eighth consecutive season in 2019.

“I’m very happy,” Wright told the team’s website after signing his extension Thursday at Seahawks headquarters in Renton.

“This is home, and it feels good to make it 10 years with one organization. ...

“I’m thankful to be back.”

He reiterated what he said before, that he wants to retire in Seattle.

And he wants to keep playing next to Wagner in one of best linebacking tandems the NFL has had in a generation.

“It’s special, man,” Wright said. “I believe when we look back 10, 20 years from now, it’s going to be one of the best to ever do it. He’ll get locked up, as well, (Wagner’s contract ends after 2019) and we’ll get 10 years together.”

Wright told Seattle’s KJR-AM radio Friday that when people saw him and Wagner together inside Seahawks headquarters Thursday folks asked “Who’s happier, you or Bobby?”

Wright said he and Wagner talked about “what we will continue to do is going to be legendary stuff.”

Wright’s return makes the already-brilliant Wagner his best. And Wagner’s already regarded as perhaps the best middle linebacker of his era.

Wright missed 11 of 16 games last regular season because of knee surgery in August then setbacks trying to return from it. In the many games Wright missed, Wagner had to spend far more time before snaps and even during plays directing a rotating cast of fill-in weakside linebackers to their correct spots in the Seahawks’ 4-3 base defense.

First it was rookie Shaquem Griffin. He struggled so much in the first quarter of the opener in Denver Wagner’s backup Austin Calitro entered and played weakside linebacker that September day for the first time in his football life. By the following week at Chicago former Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl starter Mychal Kendricks was the third guy in five quarters playing for the injured Wright.

The Seahawks lost both games.

Kendricks then got suspended by the NFL for eight games for insider trading. Calitro went back to weakside linebacker. Then Kendricks returned from suspension—to start one game in December before he got a season-ending knee injury.

And so on.

“There was one point in the game where Shaq came in, and I didn’t even know where he came from,” Wagner said after the win over Minnesota in early December. “And then I turned to tell him a play and then Calitro was in. And then I turned to tell Calitro a play, and then Mike was back in.”

All-Pro Bobby Wagner on what getting his Pro Bowl LB partner K.J. Wright this week for his season debut means to Seahawks’ defense Sunday at Detroit.

Wright returned two weeks later. Wagner dropped the traffic-cop responsibilities with his ever-changing neighbors. He went back to sharing an unspoken understanding and head nods with Wright. They returned to confirming each other’s assignments and where each is going before snaps. They stayed on the field on all downs again, even when the Seahawks were nickel—five defensive backs and two linebackers—which was the majority of the time again last season in the pass-happy NFL.

The middle line of Seattle’s defense was whole—and wholly functioning—again. And the Seahawks slowed down wondrous Patrick Mahomes to upset his AFC West-champion Kansas City Chiefs. That clinched Seattle’s return to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

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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