The Seahawks used the draft to try to address immediate needs of replacing Frank Clark and Doug Baldwin, but they also sure looked to be hedging their bets on Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright by drafting two linebackers for the first time in seven years.
Wagner wants to stay in Seattle beyond 2019, but he has seen plenty of guys leave and knows he might join them.
“I want to retire a Seahawk, but I understand it’s a business,” Wagner told NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz on Saturday. “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.”
Schneider and Pete Carroll traded Clark, presumably, so they could pay Wagner and Jarran Reed. But they probably won’t want to pay Wagner $17 million a year — the crazy new top of the market set by the Jets and C.J. Mosley (a $4.6 million annual bump over No. 2-paid middle linebacker Luke Kuechly).
Wagner’s last deal averaged $10 million (he will make $11.5 million in 2019), so that would be a monster 70 percent raise.
The only way Wagner probably will get a new deal from Seattle is if he is willing to split the difference at somewhere around $14 million to $15 million a year. Schneider and Carroll should be willing to do that on a three-year deal. (Update: Wagner reportedly is not willing to take less than Mosley’s deal, which means he would have to be willing to give up some guarantees and Seattle would have to be OK with that compromise, too, if he is going to stay.)
Wagner has had no major injuries in his career. He has missed just nine games in his seven seasons and seems built, both in body and play style, to play well into his mid-30s — like other great linebackers such as London Fletcher (Pro Bowls at ages 34-37), Sam Mills (Pro Bowl at age 37), Ray Lewis (Pro Bowls at ages 31-36), Brian Urlacher (Pro Bowls at ages 32-33) and Zach Thomas (Pro Bowls at ages 32-33).
Cody Barton is obviously the hedge to Wagner leaving. The third-rounder is Seattle’s highest-drafted linebacker since Wagner (second round) in 2012. And fifth-rounder Ben Burr-Kirven might be Wright’s eventual replacement. Wright signed a two-year deal; but, if he struggles with injuries again, the team will have to move on in 2020.
The Seahawks also have Mychal Kendricks, Barkevious Mingo, Shaquem Griffin and Austin Calitro, but none of those guys are guaranteed to be on the squad this year, let alone beyond. Barton and Burr-Kirven seem like an attempt to stock this position for the future.
Barton and Burr-Kirven both played the middle at their Pac-12 schools, but Barton is playing the middle right now for Seattle and Burr-Kirven is on the weakside.
After the first day of rookie camp, Carroll called the rookies “really impressive … to have so much command of what we were doing. … Both of those guys are going to have great versatility in time.”
Burr-Kirven said Barton has taken charge. “He’s asking questions about stuff we haven’t even put in yet. So just the way his mind is working he is just ahead of the game, every day a little bit farther ahead than anybody else. He just wants to be that guy that runs the show.’’
He might be next year, if the Hawks don’t re-sign Wagner.