Seattle Seahawks

Bobby Wagner, D.J. Fluker, Russell Wilson all in for start of Seahawks OTAs

Anyone thinking Bobby Wagner was going to skip voluntary offseason workouts to send a message to the Seahawks about his contract doesn’t know Bobby Wagner.

The All-Pro linebacker stayed true to his persona, his seven years as a team leader and his actions so far this spring by participating in the first day of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) Monday.

As expected.

The Seahawks published a photo of Wagner joking with franchise quarterback Russell Wilson during the first of 10 OTA practices over the next three weeks. Monday’s OTAs were closed to media members. Tuesday’s are open to them.

Wagner is entering the final season of his contract extension he signed in the summer of 2015, one day after Wilson signed his. The Seahawks gave Wilson an NFL-record $140 million third contract last month, on the first offseason workouts days of his final contract year.

Wagner has yet to get his. Yet.

These OTAs are by defiition of the NFL collective bargaining agreement voluntary. Seattle has had stars skip them for years, from Earl Thomas miffed about not getting a new contract this time last year to Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch simply because they didn’t have to be at previous ones.

The only offseason work mandatory before training camp begins is Seattle’s veteran minicamp. That is June 11 through 13.

Wagner, 28, told NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz two weeks ago at a charity event in Wagner’s hometown of Ontario, California: “I want to retire a Seahawk, but I understand it’s a business. I’m preparing like this is my last year as a Seahawk. If it is, I want to make sure I go out with a bang and make sure I give the city something to remember.”

To repeat: The Seahawks have no Plan B beyond Wilson on offense and Wagner on defense.

Like for Wilson, the Seahawks have been budgeting since that time for a third deal with Wagner, at the top of the NFL market for inside linebackers.

All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (in white jersey) jokes with quarterback Russell Wilson (red) and teammates on the Seahawks’ first day of organized team activities for this offseason, Monday at team headquarters in Renton. Rod Mar/Seattle Seahawks

That market got a jolt on which Seattle general manager John Schneider and his chief salary-cap executive Matt Thomas were not banking.

Since Wagner re-signed for $46 million with Seattle in the summer of 2015, Luke Kuechly with Carolina ($61.8 million, five years) and C.J. Mosley with the New York Jets have eclipsed Wagner as the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebackers.

The Seahawks planned for Kuechly’s deal; he’s regarded as the closest contemporary in the league to Wagner in skill and accomplishment.

The Seahawks absolutely did not foresee Mosley’s deal. Perhaps no one in the NFL did.

Except for the Jets. They signed Mosley for an out-of-whack $85 million over five years, with $51 million guaranteed.

Mosley will turn 27 next month. He has been selected to four Pro Bowls. That’s one fewer than Wagner, who turns 29 next month. Mosley has zero All-Pro selections, to Wagner’s three. Wagner has won a Super Bowl and played into two of them. Mosley has never played in a Super Bowl, let alone won it.

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

Maybe even the Jets don’t like how Mosley’s deal came about. The man who largely settled Mosley’s contract in New York, general manager Mike Maccagnan, got fired by the Jets last week.

That was two months too late for Seattle’s talks with Wagner, who is representing himself without an agent.

That’s a unique aspect to all this. If he had an agent, that representative assuredly would have already talked to the team at the usual offseason intersections: the Senior Bowl in Alabama, the league’s annual scouting combine and owners meetings. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement limits the amount of time team personnel can see players in each offseason.

So not having face-to-face negotiations yet with Wagner is not exactly the slight it may appear. There’s still time for that, four months until Wagner’s contract season begins, in fact. Wagner said two days after his and the Seahawks’ season-ending playoff loss at Dallas that he understood Wilson’s contract was the team’s first offseason priority and he would wait behind that.

“Would I like to be taken care of before the (2019) season? That’d be great,” Wagner said Jan. 7. “If I’m not, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. I understand this is a business, and I am prepared for anything that happens.

“So if they sign me before then, cool. If they don’t, cool, too.

“But, you know, I want to be here. This is where I want to be for my career. This is an amazing city, amazing fans, amazing organization. So I would love to be here.”

In the meantime, he’s showing up for everything with the team. As usual.

The Seahawks’ photos Monday also showed D.J. Fluker fully participating in OTAs. This time last year the starting right guard was coming off a knee injury that ended his 2017 season and time with the New York Giants.

Fluker missed three more games last season in his debut season with Seattle because of leg injuries. The Seahawks re-signed him to a two-year contract in March.

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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