Seattle Seahawks

Why Seahawks feel they have an in as talks continue on deals for Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner

Bobby Wagner on what getting his Pro Bowl LB partner K.J. Wright means to Seahawks’ defense

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.
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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.

The Seahawks are continuing talks on contract extensions for Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner beyond this year.

And the team feels it made a big move this month that helps assure Wagner, in particular, will remain with Seattle well past 2020.

Coach Pete Carroll told reporters that this week at the NFL’s annual meeting in Phoenix, while talking about the futures of his franchise cornerstones beyond this year.

When media members in Arizona asked Carroll on Tuesday about Wagner’s contract ending after the 2019 season, the coach said this about the All-Pro middle linebacker: “Bobby’s going to be a Seahawk.”

Wagner said in early January two days after Seattle’s season-ending playoff loss at Dallas he had decided to represent himself in negotiations on what would be his third contract with the team. Seattle drafted him in the second round in 2012 out of Utah State.

So the Seahawks already had a close relationship with Wagner’s side in these talks on what, like Wilson’s, is likely to be the richest deal at his position in the NFL.

Then, this month, the team got even closer with Wagner. Seattle brought back his best friend on the team.

Veteran linebacker K.J. Wright signed a two-year contract extension with the Seahawks, after he shopped in free agency. Wright’s deal to return for an eighth consecutive season of playing next to Wagner could be worth up to $15 million with $7 million guaranteed for this year.

Wagner publicly lobbied throughout 2018 for the Seahawks to re-sign Wright. He said last year the Seahawks should reward Wright for always doing things the right way. For not holding out last spring and summer, while teammate Earl Thomas did and both were wanting extensions on expiring contracts.

Interesting points by Bobby Wagner about his fellow Seahawks defensive All-Pro Earl Thomas’ holdout: “You have to know your value. You can’t let somebody else set your value.”

The Seahawks let Thomas leave for a new deal with Baltimore this month.

Hours after Thomas signed with the Ravens, the Seahawks re-signed Wright.

“That might have been the best thing we did to negotiate with Bobby,” Carroll told reporters in Phoenix, according to the team’s website.

“Those guys are great friends, and they’re just warriors. They’ve been through it all together. Bobby was instrumental in the whole process.”

Carroll said Tuesday what general manager John Schneider had said late last month at the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis: the Seahawks remain in regular discussions with agent Mark Rodgers on a new contract for Wilson to remain Seattle’s franchise quarterback into the 2020s.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider talks contracts, prospects, Russell Wilson, Frank Clark and more at the NFL combine in indianapolis.

“We’ve been in communication, sure,” Carroll said this week at the NFL annual meeting.

“It’s very topical. We’re on it.”

Topical? Absolutely. Wilson’s contract will shape the Seahawks’ deal for Wagner, plus the multi-year deal the Seahawks are trying to get top pass rusher Frank Clark to sign beyond his 2019 franchise tag the team used on him this month. An eventual extension for Jarran Reed is also waiting on what the Seahawks ultimately have to pay Wilson. Reed had 10 1/2 sacks in his breakout 2018 at defensive tackle. He is now entering the final year of his rookie deal.

Expect Seattle’s price for Wilson to be at least $35 million per season, on average, with more than $98 million guaranteed. It will be the richest deal in the league. Aaron Rodgers signed for an average of $33 million per season with $98.2 million last summer to become the NFL’s highest-paid player and remain with the Green Bay Packers.

Wilson, 30, is five years younger than Rodgers, with as many Super Bowl rings (one).

Wagner, 29, re-signed with Seattle in the summer of 2015 one day after Wilson signed his $87.6 million extension with the Seahawks. Wagner’s $43 million for four years through 2019 made him, at the time, the highest-paid middle linebacker.

Since then, Luke Kuechly with Carolina ($61.8 million, five years) and C.J. Mosley with the New York Jets have eclipsed Wagner as the highest-paid inside linebackers. Mosely signed this month for $85 million over five years, with $51 million guaranteed.

Mosely, who will turn 27 in June, has been selected to four Pro Bowls. That’s one fewer than Wagner. Mosely has zero All-Pro selections, to Wagner’s three. Wagner has won a Super Bowl and Mosely has not.

It’s safe to assume Seattle’s cost for Wagner starts at Mosely’s deal with the Jets, and goes up from there.

None of this is franchise-altering news to the Seahawks. They’ve known and budgeted for years, since they re-signed Wilson and Wagner the first time four years ago, that this time to re-up them again was coming—and at the top of the league’s market.

There remain no Plan Bs for the Seahawks at quarterback and the quarterback of the defense. It’s Wilson and it’s Wagner. At top dollar.

Carroll said at the league meeting this week the Seahawks will seek to get Wagner, Wright and recently re-signed Mychal Kendricks on the field together often during the upcoming season. Kendricks, back on a new, one-year deal for $4 million pending a sentencing hearing in Pennsylvania for insider trading, only played Wright’s weakside linebacker spot last season while Wright was recovering from knee surgery.

Wright has played some strongside and even middle linebacker in his eight years with the Seahawks. Kendricks was a weakside linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl-champion team two years ago. He has speed and skill pressuring the edge that Carroll likes his strongside backers to have while playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

Wagner, Wright and Kendricks, if he’s free to play in 2019, would give Carroll the best linebacking trio he’s had since before Bruce Irvin left for Oakland in free agency after the 2015 season—and maybe of the coach’s Seahawks tenure.

“I’m really looking forward to the combination of the three guys playing together,” Carroll told reporters Tuesday in Phoenix, according to the team’s website. “I don’t think we’ve ever been better. When that all comes together...we’ve got all kinds of ideas and things we want to do with those guys to use their strengths. ...

“To go from those guys to the young guys trying to learn the game it’s a different world for us. The expectations are really high, and those guys are going to be really good…

“That flexibility is going to give an added dimension to us. We’ll be able to move those guys around. The plan is absolutely to play them at the same time.”

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.