I keep seeing trades happen for defensive ends and the Seahawks aren’t involved. I hear about free agents still out on the scrap heap, but no calls from our end. Coming into this year, the pass rush was assumed to be a disaster, and through six games that’s been proven accurate.
Now, the Seahawks have the least amount of extra cap space in all of football. That’s not hyperbole, that’s just a fact. The coffers are bare. But, there are ways to re-work contracts to free up some extra space. That’s why you hear about the Seahawks being “in” on a lot of guys, even if they don’t manage to land them. We’re just waiting for the right deal, the one that hurts us the least in the long term.
We’re getting to the point, though, where the lack of pass rush is a real emergency. Say what you will about how difficult it can be to bring down someone like Kyler Murray, this team had two weeks to prepare. It’s not just that we couldn’t get him on his ass, we couldn’t even get close enough to SEE his ass! For as difficult as it is to bring in guys with COVID happening all around us, we’re at a crisis point, and they’re going to have to do something soon, or else risk throwing away a real, legitimate chance at a Super Bowl. If we falter to another Wild Card finish, I’m afraid heads might roll.
What I’m wondering is: are they reluctant to take on any more money because they know Bobby Wagner is going to be cut after this season?
The Seahawks committed one of the cardinal sins when it comes to football contracts: you do NOT pay top dollar for running backs or linebackers. We paid marginally-top dollar with Marshawn Lynch back in the day, but the way his contracts were structured made it so we could get out from under them pretty easily. Bobby Wagner was another story, though. Not only did we extend him with a year already left on his deal, but we made him the highest-paid linebacker in the game. 3 years, $54 million, a little over $40 million of that guaranteed. If he sees it through to the end, he’ll be here through the 2022 season, when he’s 32 years old.
Now, at the time, we figured, “Okay, he’s worth it.” He was – more or less – the last remaining star from our glory days on defense. He was squarely in the prime of his career as the best middle linebacker in the game, and based on history, middle linebackers can play well into their 30’s if they stay healthy. But, from a value standpoint, to be worth the money he’s making, he has to continue to be THE best middle linebacker in football, and that clearly isn’t the case. Blame it on the team around him, and I agree with you: they ARE mediocre. But, he’s not elevating his game, nor does he seem to be elevating the people around him.
So, look at his contract status. There’s an out after this season. His cap hit next year is set to be over $17 million; we can get out from under his contract by eating $7.5 million. That is a SPICY meatball to have to eat, but you can’t pay him what he’s set to earn for what he’s bringing to the table now (saying nothing of the amount of decline he’ll see being another year older). At this point, he’s NOT the best middle linebacker in the game. Is he in the Top 10? Maybe. But, he’s still making Top Dog Middle Linebacker money, and that’s unacceptable. When you figure he’s much too proud to take a pay cut, that points to one alternative: the Seahawks have been eyeballing his exit all along.
There is money that could be better spent at other positions. For instance, Jamal Adams will be looking for a new deal after this season. Shaquill Griffin as well. And, of course, we’re still going to be in need of a pass rushing defensive end. Jordyn Brooks will probably be ready to take over one of the linebacker spots from K.J. Wright after this year, and the Seahawks can just as easily dip their toe into the second round of the draft next year to find Bobby’s replacement. Even if we have to slog through a season with Cody Barton; I know he’s not great, but is he SO MUCH of a drop-off at middle linebacker, relative to the money he’s making? What is Bobby Wagner bringing to the table with this defense that’s elevating things for the team?
All of that being said, I’m sure the team could rework Russell Wilson’s contract to free up money. I think I even read a headline talking about extending Tyler Lockett to tinker with the salary cap. There are options.
One of those options doesn’t appear to be – and frankly CANNOT be – shuffling money around on Bobby Wagner’s deal (moving future base salary to signing bonus, thereby increasing the amount of dead money we’d have to eat by cutting him next season). If we do that, we’re essentially guaranteeing his 2021 season at that inflated cap number.
Until now, I would’ve been 100% convinced Wagner would still be here at least for one more season. But, in looking at the numbers, and the situation as it’s laid out in front of us, it’s feeling remarkably slim.