Why it’s a ‘no’ on Bobby Wagner for me
Seahawks’ media and fans alike are buzzing on Twitter, calling for the team to bring Wagner home.
I can understand why. He was a very popular player, liked by everyone. The Seahawks have been known to keep bringing back their own players — almost to a fault. Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, Luke Willson and several others spring to mind. They are very comfortable with familiarity so I can see why some people expect this might happen.
For me though, it’s an emphatic ‘no’.
Let’s not forget we’re only a year removed from the Seahawks cutting Wagner. There was a reason for that and we can’t just put it down to cost. They are paying Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams similar salaries this year. They could afford Wagner if they wanted to — they chose to part ways instead.
Going into the final year of his contract, it would’ve been fairly easy to negotiate an extension and lower the 2022 cap-hit. Again, they chose not to.
I don’t think people ever really embraced what Wagner was showing on film towards the end. It’s not nice to say and I appreciate any time you criticise a franchise legend, you’re going to get a pushback. However — it was very clear on tape that Wagner appeared to be increasingly avoiding contact. He was not hitting his gaps with any kind of urgency. There were screen passes where he was riding downfield rather driving to the ball-carrier. He was hesitant.
The play that really encapsulated his 2021 season was having a target right in his path against the Rams, remaining extremely static and watching Darrell Taylor chase from nowhere to deliver a massive hit while he stood and watched:
Nice hit by Darrell Taylor pic.twitter.com/p3hbvR2MyN
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) December 22, 2021
There were no big plays, not enough of the old Wagner and he could no longer justify a good contract.
The team didn’t make that call on a whim. You don’t just cut Bobby Wagner. That will have been a difficult but necessary decision. Few saw it coming, apart from those of us who were willing to embrace what the tape was actually showing.
He was released on March 9th and was immediately able to negotiate with new teams. He didn’t sign a contract until March 31st. He endured a relatively cold market. A bit of interest from Baltimore, a bit of interest from LA. There wasn’t a lot of buzz. Eventually he signed a deal with the Rams that was announced as a ‘five-year deal worth $65m’ but as soon as the details came out, we could all see it was likely a $10m contract for one season and then see what happens.
Despite being PFF’s top-graded linebacker, the Rams are moving on after one season. For the second year in a row, he’s being released.
I only watched the Rams closely twice in 2022 — against the Seahawks. I thought Wagner played very well in those game. I also think he was highly motivated to play well against his old team and might’ve played with that bit between his teeth all year.
I’m not interested in signing a 33-year-old Wagner to a contract similar to the arrangement he had in LA, just to find out whether he’ll play like he did in 2021.
The Seahawks only have $15.9m in effective cap space (and that doesn’t include the Nick Bellore contract). That will rise a bit when they cut Gabe Jackson. With major holes in the trenches — and no quarterback signed to the roster — now isn’t the time to be spending around $10m for the feel-good-factor of Wagner returning, to play behind an inept D-line.
Imagine if the team did try and re-sign Wagner. What does this mean? That they’re trying to re-create the 2019 Seahawks? With a quarterback earning a salary in the $30-35m range and an ageing Wagner leading the defense?
I thought the whole point of last year was a fresh start? New heroes to find, a new era for the team? Not trying to roll back the years.
Are we really, 12 months on, going to hope for a team led by Geno Smith on a Russell Wilson sized contract, with soon-to-be 33-year-old Wagner on the other side of the ball?
I want a new direction. I don’t want to hold on to the past, or a plan that didn’t work three or four years ago (so why will it work now?).
I voiced my disinterest in re-signing Wagner on twitter and people have quickly retaliated by pointing out that I said I had interest in signing Lavonte David. It’s a fair challenge to make and one I should answer.
Firstly, I am hardly awash with NFL sources and contacts but from time-to-time, I am able to exchange ideas, thoughts and opinions with people who played the game. It was during a conversation about Wagner’s play in 2021 that the play of David was highlighted in comparison. I watched his all-22. It was the complete opposite of what Wagner was showing on tape.
To put it bluntly, Lavonte David chooses violence. There was no shirking anything. He continues to play like lightning to the ball-carrier. His intensity, physicality and speed is as good today as it was in his late 20’s. He is a thoroughly impressive, tone-setting player. He is someone who deserves more praise than he gets.
To me that is what Seattle badly needs. While I’d be worried about Wagner settling back into Seattle like he’s putting on a pair of favourite slippers, I’m not sure David has any other mode than ‘attack’.
I am not tied to the thought of signing David, either. It was a suggestion among others that included improving the trenches first and foremost. That needs to be the priority before anything else. I want to see reinforcements up front and if that means settling on a cheaper linebacker, so be it.
Over the years, we’ve been able to work out the types of player Seattle likes at certain positions. Their process at linebacker makes sense. Yes, Cody Barton has been a disappointment and Jordyn Brooks is yet to truly justify his investment. Yet the same physical traits they covet also helped us identify Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw as potential targets for Seattle. Both, obviously, now excel in San Francisco.
I think sticking to those preferences and taking shots on fast, explosive, agile linebackers in the middle and later rounds is the way to go. I’d consider an exception for Drew Sanders, who I think should be a possible option at #20.
For the most part the bigger investment should come in the trenches, though.
I had a Twitter exchange earlier with someone who suggested it would be a plausible consideration if Wagner was willing to take an unrealistic salary, such as $5m. We need to embrace what is actually likely to happen here.
According to Spotrac, Wagner has earned $92m in his football career alone. He was named 2nd team All-Pro in 2022 and got the highly publicised ‘top PFF grade’ for a linebacker in 2022.
He acts as his own agent, which typically doesn’t create the smoothest negotiation. As mentioned already, a year ago it took a while to get a deal done.
Wagner doesn’t strike me as someone who will take any old contract to carry on playing and might even sit out on a point of principle after everything he’s achieved. We’ll see. I can’t imagine him carrying on for a Phil Haynes salary. There may well be teams with a lot to spend — Atlanta, Chicago and Vegas for example — who are willing to invest in his experience.
More than anything though I’m just ready to look to the future and not be sentimental for the past. Wagner will always be a Seattle great. Yet he was cut for a reason 12 months ago and a revenge tour season in LA shouldn’t push the Seahawks towards going back for more.
They don’t have much to spend. What little is left should go on other areas — namely quarterback and the trenches.
Another important note on character
I’m always looking for little nuggets of info and this felt like an interesting one. On 710 Seattle Sports this week, Dave Wyman had the following to say about Kayvon Thibodeaux — a player the Seahawks supposedly wouldn’t have drafted a year ago:
“That was a guy that they just weren’t going to draft. Probably in the second round or at some point. That was just a guy they weren’t very high on”
Wyman doesn’t detail why they wouldn’t have drafted Thibodeaux but it’s worth remembering some of the talk about him pre-draft. In all of his interviews he talked about his ‘brand’ and how being in the NFL would help his ‘brand’. He constantly talked about money and how being in the league was simply a vehicle to achieve financial success.
Closer to the draft it emerged he’d also been saying similar things to teams and a few found it off-putting. In mocks you started to see him drop. Right before the draft, Peter King even mocked the Seahawks trading down to #13 and taking Thibodeaux.
When Schneider spoke immediately after the 2022 season ended, he spoke about the added emphasis they placed on character last year. You can see that in the players they drafted — all were very mature, focused players.
My hunch is they were one of the teams who were put-off by Thibodeaux’s relentless desire to talk about his ‘brand’ and entrepreneurial ambitions.
I appreciate there’s some dot-connecting here but John Schneider recently started a weekly radio segment with Wyman. Recently, we’ve seen this comment on Thibodeaux and a note that Geno Smith is asking for $40m a year. Draw your own conclusions but personally when Wyman speaks these days I’m going to listen.
The reason I bring all this up is because of Jalen Carter. As talented as he is — and he’s very talented — there’s no getting away from the character concerns. Todd McShay questioned whether he’s someone you’d want to bring into the locker room. Lance Zierlein noted maturity issues in his NFL.com scouting report. I understand he basically did what he wanted at Georgia.
This could all be fair and accurate and he could still have an amazing career. You don’t need to be the ultimate pro to succeed.
And let’s not forget — the Giants took Thibodeaux at #5 despite all the chatter. I think Carter will similarly go very early.
I’m not convinced, however, that he’ll be on Seattle’s radar unless he can convince them otherwise over the coming weeks.
On the other hand, Will Anderson is constantly raved about by Nick Saban for his character and attitude. It’s also worth noting that Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis are celebrated for their amazing character. I’ve interviewed Levis and have spoken to people at Kentucky about him. He is loved over there. I’ve also heard good things about Anthony Richardson, just not to the same extent as the other top-three quarterbacks.
This is all worth remembering if character plays a big part in Seattle’s key decision with their top pick.
Two receivers I’m eyeing for Seattle
I’m very much looking forward to the combine and will be publishing my big combine preview on Sunday or Monday. I can’t wait to mention two receivers though.
The Seahawks might go in a different direction with their high picks and we need to see how they test. However, Josh Downs and Jonathan Mingo just scream ‘Seahawks’ to me.
Downs is just the ultimate. He reminds me so much of Tyler Lockett it’s uncanny.
His ability to high-point the football at his size is truly remarkable. He creates subtle separation with suddenness to clear coverage. He can make the big play downfield and deliver on the quick-hitters inside.
Personality-wise he is a 10/10. He already speaks like a seasoned veteran. His dad played in the league and his uncle is Dre Bly. He’s grown up around coaches and players and it shows.
He is also immensely productive and explosive — a constant threat.
It won’t be a surprise if he ends up being a ‘must-have’ for Seattle. He’ll need to prove his speed at the combine but this is the player I would put a ring around pre-Indy.
Mingo, meanwhile, is one of the most underrated players in the draft. He’s well sized with a fantastic frame. He has the quickness to get downfield and take the top off a defense but amazingly at 6-1 and 225lbs he’s brilliant in the slot. He’s technically adept and knows how to get open, present himself to the ball and he shows his hands to the QB and catches away from his body. His ball-tracking over his shoulder and on deep and contested throws is first rate.
He can make spectacular one-handed grabs, he can ‘Moss’ defenders and he runs terrific routes. He can pretty much do everything and he plays with an aggression and physicality teams will love.
I’ve watched every rep he had at the Senior Bowl and he was as smooth as silk. His ability to leap and catch away from his body was there for all to see and he deserves way more attention than he’s getting for his showing. I think he’s a second round lock but let’s see how he tests.
The fact Seattle trialled Laquon Treadwell as a bigger WR3 makes me think they’re open to that type of player. If Mingo’s there at #53 — he could end up being a steal.
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