Why Wagner and not Thomas & Clark?

Training camp logo2The season is still over a month away, but the Seahawks already have tallied a bunch of W’s — Wilson, Wright and now Wagner.

With his $54 million deal, Bobby Wagner joined Russell Wilson ($140 million) and K.J. Wright ($15.5 million) as rare “keepers” for a Seattle club that has undergone some major changes over the past two offseasons.

The Seahawks were wise to hand third deals to all three W’s, but some wonder why they got paid and Earl Thomas and Frank Clark didn’t. Why pay a middle linebacker $18 million a year but refuse to pay your star safety and pass rusher, leaving you with no other established standouts on defense?

They clearly decided Wagner was a better investment than Thomas ($12.75 million per year) or Clark ($20.8 million) — even though they could have afforded all three (we were in favor of paying Thomas, on the fence about Clark).

The fact that Thomas reinjured his broken leg last season (reportedly because he did not have a steel rod inserted during the first surgery) somewhat validates Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s choice not to pay him. His comments about wanting to play in Dallas surely factored in their decision as well.

They probably also felt Clark, who played through a bunch of injuries in 2018, won’t be able or willing to do that regularly and might start breaking down before he gets very far into a new deal.

After they traded Clark, Carroll said, “We love Frank and he did a lot of great stuff here. We had every intention of doing a long-term deal with him and hoped that we could. The market just went crazy. It just went out there so far; we just couldn’t work it in. So we had to make him available at the end of it.”

The market for Wagner was even farther out there, but Carroll and Schneider clearly saw him as a more significant part of this team and more worth the extravagant investment. They obviously think the 29-year-old will continue his durability and elite play into his 30s — just as did London Fletcher (Pro Bowls at ages 34-37), Sam Mills (Pro Bowl at age 37), Brian Urlacher (Pro Bowls at ages 32-33), Zach Thomas (Pro Bowls at ages 32-33) and Ray Lewis (Pro Bowls at ages 31-36).

As Schneider said of Wagner: “He exemplifies everything that we’re all about: his professionalism, intensity, the way he handles himself off the field. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll go down not only as one of the greatest Seahawks, but also as one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history. It’s a major deal for our organization moving into the future.”

After losing a bunch of stars (Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Doug Baldwin, Thomas, Clark) the past two years, it has been nice to see Carroll and Schneider keep the W’s — the only remaining Super Bowl stars and the clear leaders of this next-generation team. Wilson is signed through 2023 and Wagner through 2022.

Carroll told 710 ESPN: “They have just brought everything. They’ve been so team-oriented, so club-oriented. And they’ve just been such great competitors. … They’ve been fantastic contributors in all aspects of the program. … The leadership in the locker room, because of who they are, the way they bring it every single day, they just illustrate everything you would ever want in the program.

“They make themselves that value. … You always have a chance to create your own value. They have maxed it out. They’ve created their own importance and significance here in a manner that we’re more than willing to go ahead and recognize it and keep them here for the rest of their career.”

Schneider said: “Those are two pillars that we want to build a young football team around. That was a primary goal for us as we entered the offseason, and knowing that we’re going to be a young football team with great leadership on both sides of the ball — Bobby, K.J. and Russ — that’s big for us.”

So why these guys over Sherman, Thomas and Clark?

Carroll’s pretty simple answer: “The balanced mentality of how they approached their work … has left them at the head of the class the whole time.”

Thomas, Sherman and Bennett all seem to hold grudges for the way their Seahawks tenures ended. Sherman and Bennett said their pieces after they were let go last year, and Thomas recently said he had no regrets for flipping the bird to Carroll after re-breaking his leg in Arizona last season, claiming that Carroll lied to him about a new contract.

Carroll’s response: “They have their right to speak as they feel they need to. I don’t always agree with it. And I have told them since way back when I think they are off base.”

Carroll attended Avril’s retirement party this offseason, which included Wagner, Wright, Sherman, Bennett, Chancellor, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Jermaine Kearse, Clinton McDonald, DeShawn Shead, Jeron Johnson and others from Carroll’s first Super Bowl Seahawks.

“It was one of the most proud moments I’ve had since I’ve been with the Seahawks,” Carroll said. “To see them interact and the strength and the power of the relationships they had built in the time they were here … it was so evident how connected this group has been. … The time we spent together has been meaningful. It’s meant stuff to different guys in different ways. I’m proud to say they have grown and they will continue to grow, as we all do, and I’m not worried one bit about the long haul.”

And, with the three W’s now signed, he’s pretty excited about the short haul.


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