SEATTLE – If you watched superhero cartoons as a kid, you learned the formula pretty quickly. The writers were going to drum up some drama, put the protagonist in peril, but no matter what, the good guy was going to win.
There was never any real suspense – it was just manufactured for our amusement. Kind of like this Bobby Wagner situation.
A couple of days ago, the Seahawks’ middle linebacker told NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz that he was preparing as though 2019 would be his last year in Seattle. He said he wants to retire as a Seahawk but understands that it’s a business.
I don’t know if there are a lot of people out there worried that Wagner won’t re-sign with the team, but if there are, let me offer a spoiler alert: He’ll get another contract with Seattle.
A few weeks ago, the discussion in Seahawk land was whether the team would be able to keep quarterback Russell Wilson, defensive end Frank Clark and Wagner. Since then, Wilson signed a record-setting contract, Clark was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs and Wagner is still extension-free.
But in terms of being essential to the franchise, Wagner is closer to a Wilson than he was a Clark.
They can’t – and won’t – let him get away.
The 29-year-old has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past five seasons and has been first-team All-Pro four times. Last year, he was fourth in the league in tackles and, incredibly, missed only one. His 11 passes defended was tops among all of the top 10 tacklers, and he had a 98-yard interception return for touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers.
Simply put: Wagner is the best linebacker in the NFL, and is a couple of great seasons away from locking up a Hall of Fame bid.
Some might look at the Seahawks drafting two linebackers and think the team sees Wagner as replaceable. After all, they drafted a pass-rusher in the first round to try and fill the void that Clark left, right?
True, but Clark isn’t the best in the NFL at his position. And he hasn’t meant to the Seahawks what Wagner has. Barring a career-shifting injury or unforeseen fallout with the organization, No. 54 will be in Seattle long term.
To me, the most interesting thing about this story is that Wagner is representing himself, a trend that is becoming more common in the NFL. Former Seahawks offensive lineman Russell Okung did it. Former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman did it. And now Wagner, whose interest in the business side of the league has elevated over the past couple of years, is doing the same.
This will spare him the commission he’d have to give an agent, but will it net him the most money he can get? Could physically being in the negotiating room cause friction that wouldn’t otherwise exist?
Obviously, we don’t know the answers. What we do know is that C.J. Mosley reset the linebacker market in March when he signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the New York Jets, which included $51 million guaranteed. And according to a tweet by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Wagner isn’t interested in offering the Seahawks a “hometown discount.”
That might alarm some fans, but it shouldn’t. Save for Tom Brady, athletes in their prime almost never give up money for the sake of the team.
This is really nothing more than offseason fodder. It’s early May, the draft is over, and people need something to talk about. Bobby gave them just that.
Whether it’s before the start of training camp, it seems almost impossible that Wagner wouldn’t sign an extension with the team with which he won a Super Bowl. This has become his defense and should remain his defense for years to come.
Like those cartoons, an element of drama has been introduced. But like those cartoons, we know how this will end.