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Linebacker K.J. Wright signs with Raiders, ending 10-year run with Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright rushes the line of scrimmage during an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Landover, Md.  (Associated Press)
Bob Condotta Seattle Times

The career of one of the most popular Seahawks will continue in Las Vegas.

Longtime linebacker K.J. Wright has agreed to a one-year deal with the Raiders, The Seattle Times has confirmed.

Wright has been connected with the Raiders for a month or so with the team needing linebackers.

The Raiders are also 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.

Wright first visited the Raiders in mid-August.

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 decided 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 is 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.

Carroll said in the spring that the door remained open for Wright to return, but he 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.

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 also said he would pursue other opportunities.

Weakside linebacker has been Wright’s primary position with Seattle.

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).