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Report: K.J. Wright meets with Raiders but for now isn’t signing

Aug. 5, 2021 Updated Thu., Aug. 5, 2021 at 3:41 p.m.

Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright stands on the field before an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright stands on the field before an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Seattle. (Associated Press)
Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Longtime Seahawk linebacker K.J. Wright met with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday as he searches for a team for the 2021 season, according to multiple reports.

But for now, Wright remains a free agent as the NFL Network reported that Wright left his meeting with the Raiders without signing a contract.

The NFL Network reported that Wright “has interest from a few teams and will remain in touch with Vegas” as he continues to assess his options.

The Raiders are an obvious fit for Wright as their new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks from 2009-12. Wright began his career with Seattle in 2011 when he was drafted out of Mississippi State in the fourth round.

Bradley has continued to run a defense similar to that of Seattle’s and Pete Carroll’s in his stops since leaving the Seahawks in 2013, initially to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Bradley was hired by the Raiders in January after the team fired Paul Guenther following a season in which the Raiders finished 30th in the NFL in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed.

If Wright were to sign with the Raiders, he could see his first action against Seattle in a preseason game on Aug. 14 in Las Vegas.

Wright turned in what by all accounts was one of his best seasons with Seattle in 2020, playing both strongside and weakside linebacker. He became the starting strongside linebacker in the base defense following an injury in Week Two to Bruce Irvin but also usually played weakside linebacker in the nickel. His 11 tackles-for-a-loss and 10 pass defenses were each the second most of his career, and Pro Football Focus recently rated Wright as the 14th best linebacker entering the 2021 season.

But Wright turned 32 in July, and the Seahawks have decided for now to turn those two positions over to high picks from recent drafts.

Jordyn Brooks, a first-round pick in 2020, is taking over the WLB spot on a full-time basis (last year, he started in the base defense but came off in the nickel with Wright moving to WLB), and 2020 second-rounder Darrell Taylor in line to take over the starting strongside spot. Re-signing Wright, the team felt, would have essentially blocked the ascension of one, or both, players.

Carroll said in the spring that the door remained open for Wright to return, but also said the team was content with its current roster and wouldn’t likely make significant changes until it saw what it had in camp.

Both Brooks and Taylor have been cited by coaches in the early days of camp for their play.

Wright has remained in the Seattle area working out and has said he also was leaving the door open to return to Seattle. But he has also said he would pursue other opportunities.

Weakside linebacker has been Wright’s primary position with Seattle. If he were to eventually sign with the Raiders and play that spot there he would likely get into a competition with former University of Washington standout Cory Littleton.

After four years with the Rams, Littleton signed a three-year, $35.25 million contract with the Raiders before the 2020 season, and he has a dead cap hit of $19.2 million in 2021.

But the Raiders could also see Wright as an option at strongside linebacker, where he played well last year and where the Raiders don’t appear as set. Wright played primarily strongside linebacker in 2011 and 2012 with the Seahawks when Bradley was the DC.

Wright famously supplanted former first-round pick Aaron Curry as Seattle’s starting strongside linebacker early in the 2011 season when he was a rookie, resulting in Curry’s eventual trade to the Raiders. Wright moved to weakside linebacker as his primary position in 2013 after the departure of Leroy Hill.

Wright has the third-most tackles in team history with 934, behind only his longtime friend and teammate Bobby Wagner (1,211) and safety Eugene Robinson (984).

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