Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now
Seattle Seahawks

Report says Bobby Wagner ‘unlikely’ to return to Seahawks

Seattle Seahwaks’ Bobby Wagner jogs out of the tunnel on Aug. 10 at Lumen Field in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
Bob Condotta Seattle Times

When Bobby Wagner returned to the Seahawks last spring, he said in an ideal world, it would be his final NFL stop.

“If I had my way, yes,’’ Wagner said last April when asked if he hoped he could retire as a Seahawk.

But Wagner said then he also planned to play longer than one year and knew that might mean having to leave Seattle again.

And as the free agent signing period gets set to open this week, it appears as if Wagner will likely be signing with another team.

Confirming what has been the speculation that Seattle’s new coaching staff, led by head coach Mike Macdonald, might look in a different direction, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that “it’s currently viewed as unlikely that (Wagner) returns to the Seahawks.’’ Rapoport’s report further noted that Wagner is “expected to test the market.’’

Wagner made clear on multiple occasions during and again after the season that he hoped to keep playing.

“There’s no might,’’ Wagner said in January when asked if he might want to keep playing in 2024, saying it was “100%’’ that he would play again.

And in an interview with the NFL Network during Super Bowl week, he acknowledged that he might have to go elsewhere to keep playing.

“I would love to be back,’’ he said on Feb. 8. “I think obviously things have to work out. They’ve got a new coaching staff, everything is new kind of over there. So I’ve got to watch that play out. But at the same time I understand this is a business. I want to continue my career and I understand that might have to be somewhere else and so I’m just going to let the cards fall where they may.’’

Wagner was named to the NFL All-Pro second team in 2023 and to his ninth Pro Bowl, tying a Seahawks team record also held by Walter Jones and Russell Wilson, and also led the NFL with 183 tackles, tying a franchise record also set by Jordyn Brooks in 2021.

But along with a new coaching staff, Wagner also turns 34 in June — he was the third-oldest Seahawk last year behind only offensive lineman Jason Peters (42) and fullback/linebacker/special teamer Nick Bellore (34). Peters is not expected back and it was revealed Sunday that Bellore will soon be released.

Wagner also allowed a 113.5 passer rating last season, via Pro Football Focus, the second highest of his career, and had a 60.0 coverage grade, the second worst of his career.

Sunday’s news about Wagner, though, only threw into further question what the Seahawks will do with their linebacker.

With Wagner back in 2023 after a year in Los Angeles, Brooks moved back to weakside linebacker. Brooks had played in the middle in 2022. Brooks, though, is also a free agent, and if he returns, then the question will be if he will move back to middle linebacker, and holding the “green dot’’ helmet responsibilities of relaying the play calls from the sidelines — with Macdonald saying he plans to call the plays — or if someone else would fill the spot in the middle.

Backup Devin Bush, the only other linebacker to play significant snaps at either of the inside spots, also is a free agent.

So Seattle has some work to do at linebacker.

As for Wagner, he is sure to have suitors. He made $6.25 million last season on a one-year contract he signed in late March after having been released by the Rams, for whom he had played one season after being released by Seattle in 2022.

But PFF projects he may command a one-year deal at $4 million this time around rating him s the 59th best free agent overall and fifth of inside linebackers.

“The ageless wonder may not be the elite coverage linebacker he was for the better part of a decade,” PFF wrote. “But he is still a tackling machine sideline to sideline with dogged pursuit on every single snap and the requisite strength to shed blockers when coming forward. Wagner has lost athletic ability in space, but he’s made up a lot of that ground due to his play recognition and football IQ.”

Whatever the future holds for Wagner, though, nothing will taint his legacy with the Seahawks.

Wagner holds the team record for tackles in a career with 1,564, a total that may never be equaled — consider that Eugene Robinson is second on the list with 984.

He also has three of the four top tackle seasons in team history, sharing the top spot with Brooks but holding the second and third spots on his own.

He also shares the team record for tackles in a game with Brooks with 20 and also had other games with both 18 and 19.

And including his year with the Rams, his 1,704 career tackles are seventh in NFL history.

Wagner returned last spring hoping that reuniting with coach Pete Carroll could also help the Seahawks return to the golden era of the early years of his career.

Instead, the 2023 season may turn out to be the last in Seattle for both.

Wagner was one of several players who attended Carroll’s goodbye press conference on Jan. 10, sitting in the second row.

“He changed my life in so many different ways,’’ Wagner said in an appearance Friday morning on Seattle Sports 710. “It was kind of one of those things where you pay your respects for someone who did so much for you.’’

And if Wagner does move on, then the 2024 season will be the first in which there will not be coach on the sideline or a player on the field who was part of the 2013 Super Bowl title-winning team.

Wagner admitted that as time ran out on the final game of the 2023 season that he took a moment to reflect that for the second time, his Seahawks career could be coming to an end.

“There’s a lot of emotions,” Wagner said following what may turn out to be his final game as a Seahawk, a 21-20 win at Arizona on Jan. 7. “But I try to be present because you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what the future holds but that is out of my control. My control was coming back and being the best leader I can be, being the best teammate I can be.”