SEATTLE – Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner reiterated a stance Wednesday he has voiced often: That in an ideal world, he will finish his career in Seattle.
But Wagner also said he’ll be watching to see how the Seahawks handle things with his fellow veteran linebacker, K.J. Wright, who has just one year remaining on his contract with no signs of an extension imminent.
Wagner has two years remaining on a four-year, $43 million deal he signed in the summer of 2015 that still makes him the second-highest paid middle linebacker in the NFL, behind only Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, and a year from now will also be entering the final year of his deal, a time when given his status as one of the team’s most important players, he will likely be hoping for an extension – or hoping it would be done even sooner than training camp.
But while Wagner said Wednesday it’s not something yet on his mind, there could be more than just money at play when the time comes to decide his NFL future.
“I’m not thinking about it,” Wagner said when asked about his future in light of Earl Thomas’ impasse and that Wright’s future is uncertain. “I think once you think about it, it takes away from your game. I’m here. I want to be here. I want to be here for my whole career. That’s a goal of mine. I also understand the business. Hopefully I play with K.J. my whole career. That is a goal of mine as well. And for me, I just kind of let things play out. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
Wright is entering the final season of a four-year, $27 million deal signed late in the 2014 season.
Wright, though, will turn 30 next July and the team has appeared to set something of a potential succession plan at the weakside linebacker spot by moving heralded rookie Shaquem Griffin to that position after drafting him in the fifth round in April. Griffin has worked as Wright’s backup since becoming a Seahawk.
Wright was drafted in 2011 and has paired with Wagner to form what many have considered one of the best linebacking duos in the NFL since Wagner was drafted in the second round in 2012.
Wright has indicated several times that he has had no discussions with the Seahawks about a possible extension.
Wagner said “it would be telling” if the Seahawks let Wright get away and noted that he did not hold out this year. Thomas, a Pro Bowl free safety who is also entering the final year of his contract, has not taken part in any activity with the team with his holdout appearing likely to last into the regular season.
“You definitely have to appreciate guys like K.J. because he has been here, he hasn’t missed a practice, been available and he’s letting that play out,” Wagner said. “But there is also a side to that if you don’t get the deal done, you give a guy like that an opportunity to walk away.
“As a team you have to figure out what you want to do and who do you want to pay, and that comes from the guys upstairs. But when you have certain situations where you’ve got guys that hold out, but you’ve got guys that stay and do all the right things and is a leader in the room and a guy that everybody looks up to, you can’t let a guy like that walk away, and so I think for me if you let a guy like that walk away it would be telling.
“ .. People watch and see how you move, so you can’t let a guy like that, a leader like that, a person who is doing everything right, that you don’t have to worry about off the field, that you know is going to take everything on the field, you can’t let a guy like that walk away.”
Wagner, though, also defended Thomas, saying that he thinks players – especially those on defense – have the right to do what they feel is necessary to get paid what they think they are worth, saying that he thinks changes in NFL rules seem to more often favor offensive players at the risk of devaluing defensive players.
“It’s an interesting thing, man,” Wagner said. “You want him to be here, I want him to be here. But at the same time, too, there’s a business side of this thing and you know sometimes that takes over what you should be doing, and I think you see it a lot right now from the defensive side. You have amazing players that are not getting paid (Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Oakland linebacker Khalil Mack are also holding out) or not getting their money. At some point you have to make a stand.
“Every year they are making the game harder and harder for a defensive player to play. We’ve got this new helmet rule that they don’t even know how to officiate right know and we are doing our best to adjust and I just think that defensive players are just as important as offensive players. If you don’t have a defense this league don’t exist .
“So I feel like defensive players do need to kind of stand their ground to kind of show that we are just as important. You see all the offensive guys getting paid and we are just as important. So for me from that standpoint it’s like hard to really tell somebody like that what to do because he does deserve to get paid. Look at him, All-Pro, the Pro Bowls, best safety in the league. Not any safeties like him. So at some point you’ve got to do what you’ve go to do business-wise because our years are numbered. You don’t know. I think he’s been in the league eight, nine years (eight, entering his ninth). You don’t know how many more years you’ve got. So you’ve got to make sure you take care of the business side, and unfortunately sometimes that comes in the way of playing on the field.”
The Seahawks are not thought negotiating with Thomas, who has now missed two preseason games as well as 17 official practices. Thomas can be fined $40,000 for every missed practice, which combined with an $84,435 fine for missing mandatory minicamp in the spring and the ability of the team to take 25 percent of his $1.9 million signing bonus means the total he could be fined is approaching $1.5 million.
He also will lose $500,000 for every game he misses in the regular season.
Asked if he expects Thomas back for the regular season, Wagner said “I don’t know. Honestly, I really don’t know.”
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